Huawei Mate 8 With 6-Inch Display, Kirin 950 Octa-Core SoC Unveiled

As teased earlier this month, Huawei announced the Mate 8 phablet on Thursday at the Shanghai Expo Centre in China. The handset is the successor to the Huawei Mate 7, which launched last year. The device for now is limited to China and is yet to get a price tag. The phablet will be fully unveiled during the CES 2016 in January. It comes in two variants – 3GB RAM with 32GB storage and 4GB RAM with 64GB storage.

The Huawei Mate 8 is a metal-clad dual-SIM (Nano-SIM cards) supporting smartphone that runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow skinned with the company’s Emotion UI. The second SIM slot also doubles as the microSD card slot. It features a 6-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) resolution IPS LCD display with a calculated pixel density of 367.2 ppi. Under the hood, the phablet houses an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 950 processor (four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz + four Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 2.4GHz), clubbed with Mali-T880MP4 GPU clocked at 900MHz.

The phablet includes a 16-megapixel rear camera powered by Sony IMX298 sensor with OIS, f/2.0 aperture, phase-detection auto-focus (PDAF) and 1.12um pixel size, alongside an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with Sony IMX179 sensor and f/2.4 aperture. It is backed by a 4000mAh battery and offers Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Micro-USB 2.0, GPS, DLNA, Bluetooth, 4G and NFC under its connectivity options. A circular fingerprint sensor is placed below the rear camera of the Mate 8. The device will be available in Champagne Gold, Moonlight Silver, Space Gray, and Mocha Brown colour variants.

$10 Gadget Claimed to Predict, Steal Credentials of American Express Cards

A poor security implementation by American Express has made it possible for attackers to accurately predict the number of a user’s next American Express credit card, and also figure out the expiration date of that card. A hacker has developed a device called MagSpoof, which is being sold for $10 (roughly Rs 650) and can let anyone exploit this vulnerability.

Samy Kamkar’s MagSpoof can steal new credit card numbers as fast as American Express could generate them, he claims. The renowned hacker first observed this vulnerability when he lost his American Express card four months ago, and noticed a pattern in the credentials on his replacement American Express card.

“I pulled up the numbers to several other Amex cards I had, and then compared against more than 20 other Amex cards and replacements and found a global pattern that allows me to accurately predict American Express card numbers by knowing a full card number, even if already reported lost or stolen,” he wrote in a blog post.

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That isn’t all. The watch-sized MagSpoof emits an electromagnetic field strong enough to hit a credit card reader’s sensor from close proximity. It then sends a signal to trick point-of-sale readers into accepting payment from the device. The PoS devices, also known as chip-and-PIN readers and EVM, are designed to read cards that have a microchip with cryptographic encryption.

The security implications of getting the card “formula” out or a criminal getting their hands on the MagScoop device is that they can figure out the victim’s next card number even before the victim receives it. This will allow the fraudster to use the victim’s credentials to do transactions. Kamkar says that part of the reason he is exposing the vulnerability is to prove American Express wrong, which found his findings not a “major issue” when notified four months ago.

Kamkar said that he also studied the magnetic stripe on the back of payment cards to figure out how they work. He found a vulnerability that could allow him to manipulate the code the stripes sent to again fool PoS devices. He hasn’t disclosed the vulnerability but has released the schematics and software for MagSpoof.

Hilton Hotels Hit by Cyber-Attack Crafted to Steal Credit Card Information

US hotel chain Hilton revealed Tuesday that hackers infected some of its point-of-sale computer systems with malware crafted to steal credit card information.

Hilton would not disclose whether data was taken, but advised anyone who used payment cards at Hilton Worldwide hotels between November 18 and December 5 of last year or April 21 and July 27 of this year to watch for irregular activity on credit or debit card accounts.

Malicious code that infected registers at hotels had the potential to take cardholders’ names along with card numbers, security codes and expiration dates, Hilton said in an online post.

Hilton said that it is investigating the breach with the help of third-party forensics experts, law enforcement and payment card companies.

The announcement came just four days after Starwood Hotels, which operates the Sheraton and Westin chains, said that hackers had infected payment systems in some of its establishments, potentially leaking customer credit card data.

The hack occurred at a “limited number” of its hotels in North America, according to Starwood, whose other well-known chains include St Regis and W Hotels.

Starwood said that an investigation by forensic experts concluded that malware was detected in some restaurants, gift shops and other points of sale systems at hotels.

“The malware was designed to collect certain payment card information, including cardholder name, payment card number, security code and expiration date,” the group said in a statement.

Moto 360 (2015) Smartwatch India Launch Set for Tuesday

Lenovo-owned Motorola will be launching its second-generation Moto 360 smartwatch in India on Tuesday. The company has sent media invites for a launch event in New Delhi. The smartwatch wasunveiled in September at the sidelines of IFA 2015 in Berlin.

In the US, the new Moto 360 has a starting price of $299 (roughly Rs. 19,800), and goes up to $429 (roughly Rs. 28,400), depending on the size of case and type of band. Indian consumers can expect a slight premium on the US prices when the smartwatch arrives in India.

The second-generation Moto 360 smartwatch comes in two sizes and is less bulky than its predecessor. Designed for both men and women, the wearable device comes in 46mm design and 42mm design for men, while for women it comes in only the 42mm size, which is said to be designed for slimmer wrists. The company claims that the Moto 360 has the largest screen-to-case ratio of any smartwatch available today. The Moto 360 is built out of aircraft-grade 316L stainless steel, with Corning Gorilla Glass protecting the screen from scratches. The smartwatch is also IP67-certified, making it dust and water resistant (withstanding immersion in up to 1 metre of water for 30 minutes.)

As for other specifications, the new Moto 360 comes in two screen sizes: 1.37-inch (of screen resolution 360×325 pixels and a 263ppi pixel density), and 1.56-inch (of screen resolution 360×330 pixels and a 233ppi pixel density). The device is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz, which comes paired with Adreno 306 GPU clocked at 450MHz. The smartwatch has 4GB of internal storage, and 512MB of RAM. The 42mm variant comes with 300mAh battery, which as the company claims could last up to 1.5 days of mixed use with Ambient off. The 46mm variant comes with 400mAh battery, which could last up to 2 days with ambient off, and a full day with ambient kept on. It supports both Bluetooth 4.0 LE and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g. Among the sensors, it comes loaded with an accelerometer, ambient light sensor, and a gyroscope, apart from a vibration and haptics engine. It also has an optical heart rate monitor (PPG).

Android Studio 2.0 Preview Released With Massive Speed Improvements

Almost two years after the introduction of Android Studio, a freely available integrated development environment (IDE) for the Android platform, Google announces that the tool has hit version 2.0 in a preview form. The company says that the tool comes with a faster emulator as well as an improved GPU profiler. Android Studio 2.0 is yet to reach its stable version, but a preview of it can be downloaded from the Canary channel.

The version 2.0 of the IDE comes with a feature called Instant Run, which will allow developers to see the changes in an instant. As for other changes, the company says that the new version is between 2 times to 2.5 times fasterfor building code, and up to 50 times faster when coding incremental builds. It will however only be beneficial when using instance method or static method implementation, or adding or removing a class. It will work with all apps designed for Ice Cream Sandwich or above.

And developers are already excited. “It’s nothing short of magical right now. It has already brought down our build times from 40 seconds, on an average, to 2 seconds,” said Saket Narayan, an Android developer at ClearTax. “Our team estimates that it will save us at least an hour of constant eyeballing at the computer waiting for the project to compile.”

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“If that wasn’t bad, Android Studio used to [bog] down the whole machine when compiling (especially ifChrome was running in the background), often making it unusable, even on high-end machines. We’re also anxiously waiting for the promised faster-than-physical-devices emulator to arrive,” he added.

Google says that the emulator will have a new toolbar, allowing developers to do more than before. For instance, they will be able to drag and drop APKs onto the emulator windows directly, and resize the window by just dragging the corner. Some other minor, yet handy feature additions include the ability to control volume, rotate screen, and screenshots.

Android Studio is also getting an enhanced deep search functionality. The company said that developers can generate and test deep links directly right from the IDE. The GPU profiler is the other major addition. It will allow developers to see exactly what’s happening every time the screen draws an image, and check for performance issues.

Foodpanda Ties Up With IRCTC to Pilot Food Delivery Scheme

Rocket Internet’s online food ordering platform Foodpanda announced that it has entered into an association with IRCTC to enable meal pre-orders.

While the partnership has materialised, the date of rollout of the pilot, which will start with New Delhi Railway Station, has yet to be confirmed or finalised, a spokesperson for Foodpanda told Gadgets 360.

The association will enable consumers to order meals of their choice through its aggregator model, and will be extending the pilot to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Chennai. Foodpanda didn’t offer a specific timeline for the rollout of the facility.

Passengers will need to order meals at least 2 hours in advance of the train arrival, and Foodpanda says a wide variety of cuisine will be available, deployed by its delivery fleet. Users can pay for the order in advance online, or make on the spot cash payments, the company said.

“Our association with IRCTC will be an offering which addresses a huge consumer need prevailing for years. For long, consumers had limited food options to choose from while travelling with Indian Railways but the newly [re]launched e-catering service by IRCTC (approved by Ministry of Railways) is set to change the way Indians eat while travelling,” said Foodpanda CEO Saurabh Kochhar, in an emailed statement.

Delhi-based TravelKhana, an online marketplace for food ordering and delivery at train stations provides meals in over 2,000 trains currently.

“With progressing times, we aim to offer wider choices to our consumers and are extremely thankful to Foodpanda to have offered partnership with us. We are happy that we will be able to offer wider food choices to our consumers with this association and once our pilot project is successful, we will extend the service to more locations,” said Robin Kalita, Director, Catering Services, IRCTC.

Launched in 2012 in India, Foodpanda claims to provide meals from over 12,000 restaurants across 200 cities in India. Other notable Rocket Internet ventures in India include Jabong and Fabfurnish.

Oppo A33 With 4G LTE Support, 5-Inch Display Launched

Oppo has unveiled the A33 smartphone in China. Priced at CNY 1,499 (approximately Rs. 15,500), the smartphone is available to buy via the company’s store in the country. The smartphone, at the time of writing however, was listed as ‘out of stock.’

The company so far has not revealed plans to launch the Oppo A33 smartphone outside China but we can expect the smartphone to launch in other markets including India soon. At this price point, the Oppo A33 can compete with Motorola Moto G (Gen 3) and Xiaomi Mi 4i.

The Oppo A33 runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop with the ColorOS 2.1 skin on top. It features a 5-inch (540×960 pixels) TFT display with a pixel density of 220ppi. The new Oppo smartphone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC coupled with 2GB of RAM. It supports dual-SIM cards with one Micro-SIM and one Nano-SIM card.

Sporting an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera, the Oppo A33 also sports a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. It bears 16GB of built-in storage that is expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). Connectivity options include 3G (HSPA+), 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, Micro-USB 2.0, GPS/ A-GPS, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The China listing of the Oppo A33 confirms that the handset supports Indian LTE bands.

Measuring 142.7×71.7×7.5mm, the A33 smartphone weighs 146 grams. It is backed by a 2400mAh battery that is rated to deliver up to 250 hours of standby time and up to 8 hours of talk-time. It bears an accelerometer, ambient light sensor, and proximity sensor.

Last month, Oppo unveiled the Neo 7 smartphone in India, priced at Rs. 9,990.

Researchers Find Way to Build Electronic Circuits Inside Plants

Scientists in Sweden have developed an ‘electronic’ rose by implanting circuits inside the vascular system used to distribute water and nutrients in the plant.

Researchers at Linkoping University in Sweden created analog and digital electronics circuits inside living plants.

The group at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE), led by Professor Magnus Berggren used the vascular system of living roses to build key components of electronic circuits.

Researchers demonstrated wires, digital logic, and even displays elements – fabricated inside the plants – that could develop new applications for organic electronics and new tools in plant science.

Plants are complex organisms that rely on the transport of ionic signals and hormones to perform necessary functions. However, plants operate on a much slower time scale making interacting with and studying plants difficult.

Augmenting plants with electronic functionality would make it possible to combine electric signals with the plant’s own chemical processes.

Controlling and interfacing with chemical pathways in plants could pave the way to photosynthesis-based fuel cells, sensors and growth regulators, and devices that modulate the internal functions of plants, researchers said.

“Previously, we had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants. Now we’ll be able to influence the concentration of the various substances in the plant that regulate growth and development,” said Ove Nilsson, professor of plant reproduction biology and director of the Umea Plant Science Centre.

The team tried many attempts of introducing conductive polymers through rose stems. Only one polymer, called PEDOT-S, synthesised by Dr Roger Gabrielsson, successfully assembled itself inside the xylem channels as conducting wires, while still allowing the transport of water and nutrients.

Dr Eleni Stavrinidou used the material to create long (10 cm) wires in the xylem channels of the rose. By combining the wires with the electrolyte that surrounds these channels she was able to create an electrochemical transistor, a transistor that converts ionic signals to electronic output.

Using the xylem transistors she also demonstrated digital logic gate function.

Dr Eliot Gomez used methods common in plant biology – vacuum infiltration – to infuse another PEDOT variant into the leaves.

The infused polymer formed “pixels” of electrochemical cells partitioned by the veins. Applied voltage caused the polymer to interact with the ions in the leaf, subsequently changing the colour of the PEDOT in a display-like device.

“As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one’s done this before,” he said.

The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

Astronomers Measure ‘Heartbeats’ of Distant Stars

Offering a new way of determining a galaxy’s age, astronomers have detected thousands of stellar “pulses” – regular up and down changes in brightness – in a distant galaxy.

The team studied the elliptical galaxy M87, located 53 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

“We tend to think of galaxies as steady beacons in the sky, but they are actually ‘shimmering’ due to all the giant, pulsating stars in them,” said one of the researchers Pieter van Dokkum, professor and chair of the astronomy department at Yale University in New Haven, US.

Near the end of their lifetime stars begin to pulsate, increasing and decreasing their brightness by a large amount every few hundred days. In our own Milky Way galaxy, many stars are known to be in this stage of life.

It is the first time scientists have measured the effect that pulsating, older red stars have on the light of their surrounding galaxy. In distant galaxies the light of each pulsating star is mixed in with the light of many more stars that are not varying in brightness.

The team focused on the galaxy M87 and examined a unique series of images taken with the HubbleSpace Telescope over the course of three months in 2006.

Analysis of the Hubble data showed that the average pixel varies on a timescale of approximately 270 days.

The regular up and down changes in brightness are reminiscent of a heartbeat, the study said.

“It is as if we are taking the pulse of the galaxy,” lead researcher Charlie Conroy, assistant professor at Harvard University pointed out.

Their discovery offers a new way of measuring the age of a galaxy, because the strength and speed of a galaxy’s heartbeat varies depending on its age.

The team found that M87 is about 10 billion years old, a number that agrees with previous estimates using different techniques.

The discovery of stellar heartbeats should not be specific to M87 and every galaxy in the universe likely shows similar distinctive patterns, the researchers said.

The findings appeared in the journal Nature.

ISS Astronaut Scott Kelly Tweets Images of South India

US astronaut Scott Kelly has tweeted a stunning picture of South India at night from space.

Kelly, who is the longest resident on the International Space Station (ISS), on November 15 uploaded a picture of South India at night on micro-blogging site Twitter, The TeCake news website reported.

Kelly has also posted a series of pictures including images of Indian cities, the Ganges and stunning night time picture of India-Pakistan border captured, the report said.

The panoramic image was captured from the south-west direction and India’s southern coast is in the east direction in the image.

In the picture, the faded yellow colour is spread all over the image while the bright yellow spots denote cities.

The image has been retweeted 3,943 times while favourited by 7,225 people.

“Day 233. Once upon a #star over Southern India. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace,”Kelly tweeted.

Kelly is longest living astronaut on the ISS and he would have spent 415 days in space by November 17.

On October 16, Kelly completed 383 days in space breaking the record of US astronaut Mike Fincke who had spent 382 cumulative days in space.