Army photogrammetry technique makes 3D aerial maps in minutes

    Summary
    Aerial imagery is a common asset in military matters, but 3D maps can be difficult to collect on short notice without specialized equipment. This new photogrammetry technique from the Army Corps of Engineers, however, can make accurate 3D maps from ordinary aerial footage in just minutes. Photogrammetry is the process of comparing multiple photos of the same location or item to produce a 3D map of it. It’s a well-known method but in some cases is still reliable on human intelligence to determine, for instance, which frames of a video should be used to produce the best results. Ricky Massaro from the Army’s Geospatial Research Laboratory in Virginia has mitigated that problem and produced a highly efficient photogrammetric method that can turn aerial imagery into accurate 3D surface maps in near real-time without any human oversight. This image shows the depth map as color – red being higher. It was created from combining multiple 2D images. The system was tested by the 101st Airborne, which flew a drone over Fort Campbell in Kentucky and mapped a mock city used for training exercises. It was also deployed in Iraq for non-combat purposes. So this isn’t stuck in a lab somewhere — it’s been put to work, and is now being publicized because the patent filing is in and the Army is now negotiating to commercialize the system. “Whether it’s for soldiers or farmers, this tech delivers usable terrain and intelligence products fast,” said Quinton King, a manager at TechLink, the Defense Department’s commercial tech transfer organization. “And I’m happy to help companies learn how they can leverage Dr. Massaro’s work for their own products or applications.” The real-time photogrammetry wouldn’t replace lidar or ground-based mapping systems, but act in concert with them. Being able to produce accurate depth from ordinary aerial imagery, and without having to send tons of data to a central location or involve human experts, makes it adaptable to a variety of situations. If you’re curious about the specifics, you can check out the patent application here.

    ‘Magic: The Gathering’ game maker exposed 452,000 players’ account data

    Summary
    The maker of *Magic: The Gathering* has confirmed that a security lapse exposed the data on hundreds of thousands of game players. The game’s developer, the Washington-based Wizards of the Coast, left a database backup file in a public Amazon Web Services storage bucket. The database file contained user account information for the game’s online arena. But there was no password on the storage bucket, allowing anyone to access the files inside. The bucket is not believed to have been exposed for long — since around early-September — but it was long enough for U.K. cybersecurity firm Fidus Information Security to find the database. A review of the database file showed there were 452,634 players’ information, including about 470 email addresses associated with Wizards’ staff. The database included player names and usernames, email addresses, and the date and time of the account’s creation. The database also had user passwords, which were hashed and salted, making it difficult but not impossible to unscramble. None of the data was encrypted. The accounts date back to at least 2012, according to our review of the data. A formatted version of the database backup file, redacted, containing 452,000 user records. (Image: TechCrunch) Fidus reached out to Wizards of the Coast but did not hear back. It was only after TechCrunch reached out that the game maker pulled the storage bucket offline. Bruce Dugan, a spokesperson for the game developer, told TechCrunch in a statement: “We learned that a database file from a decommissioned website had inadvertently been made accessible outside the company.” “We removed the database file from our server and commenced an investigation to determine the scope of the incident,” he said. “We believe that this was an isolated incident and we have no reason to believe that any malicious use has been made of the data,” but the spokesperson did not provide any evidence for this claim. “However, in an abundance of caution, we are notifying players whose information was contained in the database and requiring them to reset their passwords on our current system,” he said. Harriet Lester, Fidus’ director of research and development, said it was “surprising in this day and age that misconfigurations and lack of basic security hygiene still exist on this scale, especially when referring to such large companies with a userbase of over 450,000 accounts.” “Our research team work continuously, looking for misconfigurations such as this to alert companies as soon as possible to avoid the data falling into the wrong hands. It’s our small way of helping make the internet a safer place,” she told TechCrunch. The game maker said it informed the U.K. data protection authorities about the exposure, in line with breach notification rules under Europe’s GDPR regulations. The U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office did not immediately return an email to confirm the disclosure. Companies can be fined up to 4% of their annual turnover for GDPR violations. Stop saying, ‘We take your privacy and security seriously’

    This Week in Apps: Apple’s vaping app ban, Disney+ gets installed, apps gear up for Black Friday

    Summary
    Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support, and the money that flows through it all. What are developers talking about? What do app publishers and marketers need to know? How are politics impacting the App Store and app businesses? And which apps are everyone using? As mid-November rolls around, we’re looking at a few big stories, including Apple’s decision to ban an entire category of apps due to health concerns, the launch of Disney+ from an app perspective, what Black Friday will mean for e-commerce apps, and more. Fast Facts With Disney+’s huge launch (10+ million users!) on everyone’s minds, it’s time to think about what these streaming newcomers mean for the overall landscape and the app stores. In this case, it seems that Disney+’s user base was highly mobile. The company itself announced more than 10 million users, while data on the Disney+ app’s first few days indicates it now has over 10 million downloads. It seems like consumers definitely want to take their new streaming service with them everywhere they go. - In 2020, App Annie forecasts consumers will spend more than *674 billion hours* in the Entertainment and Video Player and Editor categories worldwide on Android phones, up from an expected 558 billion hours in 2019. Thanks to Disney+, Apple TV+ and soon, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi, to making the landscape both richer and more complicated. - On its launch day, Disney+ hit #1 by iPhone Overall downloads at 8 AM in the U.S. and at 11 AM in Canada — an indication of the ability that strong IP has can really excite consumers to come out in droves. (Unfortunately, that led to some launch day glitches, too.) - Apptopia estimated Disney+ was downloaded 3.2 million times in its first 24 hours. The firm also estimated users collectively spent 1.3 million hours watching Disney+ on day one — ahead of Amazon Prime Video, but well behind Netflix. - Sensor Tower waited to collect a little more data instead. It found that the Disney+ app was installed approximately 9.6 million times in all available markets (the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands), since its U.S. launch on Tuesday, Nov. 12. For comparison’s sake, HBO Now’s U.S. launch only saw 180,000 installs in its first three days — or 2% of the Disney+ total. Combined with the test period installs in the Netherlands, the app has now been installed over 10 million times. - The hype around Disney+ has had a halo effect. Hulu and ESPN, which were offered in a bundle with Disney+, also grew as a result of the Disney+ launch. Sensor Tower found combined users of the apps in the U.S. and Canada were up 30% in the past week over the week prior. Headlines *Apple removed all vaping apps from the App Store, citing CDC health concerns* The CDC says 42 people have died due to vaping product use and thousands more cases of lung injuries have been reported from 49 states. Now, Apple has made the controversial decision to remove all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store — including those with news and information about vaping and even vaping-related games, Axios reported this week. Some say Apple is helping to protect kids and teens by limiting their exposure to e-cigarette and vaping products, which are being used to addict a younger generation to nicotine and cause serious disease. Others argue that Apple is over-reaching. After all, many of the lung illnesses involve people who were vaping illegally obtained THC, studies indicated. This isn’t the first time Apple has banned a category of apps because of what appear to be moral concerns. The company in the past had booted apps that promoted weed or depicted gun violence, for example. In the case of vaping apps, Apple cited the public health crisis and youth epidemic as contributing factors, telling Axios that: We take great care to curate the App Store as a trusted place for customers, particularly youth, to download apps. We’re constantly evaluating apps, and consulting the latest evidence, to determine risks to users’ health and well-being. Recently, experts ranging from the CDC to the American Heart Association have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic. We agree, and we’ve updated our App Store Review Guidelines to reflect that apps encouraging or facilitating the use of these products are not permitted. As of today, these apps are no longer available to download. Existing users will still be able to use their apps, but new users will not be able to download the banned apps going forward. *Minecraft Earth arrives * Minecraft Earth launched early last week across 9 countries on both Android and iOS and now it’s come to the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and several other markets. Some expect the app will rival the success of the AR breakout hit, Pokémon Go, which was thought at the time to be the precursor to a new wave of massive AR gaming titles. But in reality, that didn’t happen. The highly anticipated follow-up from Niantic, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite didn’t come close to competing with its predecessor, generating $12 million in its first month, compared with Pokémon Go’s first-month earnings of $300 million. With Minecraft Earth now sitting at No. 2 (c’mon, you can’t unseat Disney+) on the U.S. App Store, it seems there’s potential for another AR kingpin. *App Annie releases a user acquisition playbook* A top name in App Store intelligence, App Annie this week released a new how-to handbook focused on user acquisition strategies on mobile. Sure the free download is just a bit of lead gen for App Annie, but the guide promises to fill you in on all you need to know to be successful in acquiring mobile users. The playbook’s arrival follows App Annie’s acquisition of adtech insights firm Libring this fall, as it expands to cover more aspects of running an app business. Just as important as rankings and downloads are the very real costs associated with running an app business — including the cost of acquiring users.

    The House and Senate finally agree on something: Robocalls

    Summary
    In these times of political strife, it’s nice that despite our differences we can still band together as a nation in the face of a catastrophe that affects us all equally. I speak, of course, of robocalls, and it seems that the House and Senate have put their differences aside for the present in order to collaborate on a law combating this scourge. Despite a great deal of FCC bluster, a few high-profile fines and some talk from telecoms about their plans to implement new anti-robocall standards, half the country’s phones are still blowing up regularly with recordings and scammers on the other side. If regulators find it difficult to act, ultimately what’s needed is legislation, and lawmakers — who no doubt are receiving the calls themselves, which might have given the task a special urgency. FCC passes measure urging carriers to block robocalls by default As often happens in Congress, two competing versions of the bill emerged to address this issue, and both passed in their respective chambers earlier this year. Now the leaders of the committees involved have announced an “agreement in principle” that will hopefully allow them to pass a unified version of the bill. The “Pallone-Thune TRACED Act” owes its name to its primary sponsors — Rep. Pallone (D-NJ) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) — and the earlier and superior acronym from the House act, Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence. “Our agreement will require telephone carriers to verify calls and allow robocalls to be blocked in a consistent and transparent way, all at no extra charge to consumers. The agreement also gives the FCC and law enforcement the ability to quickly go after scammers,” said Rep. Pallone in a statement accompanying the news. The bill text is expected to be finalized in a matter of days, and it will hopefully make it onto the legislative calendar in a hurry. Meanwhile, the FCC has been waiting patiently for telecoms to implement SHAKEN/STIR, an anti-spoofing measure they can implement on their networks, repeatedly warning that it will eventually take action if they don’t. A resolution in June made clear that robocalls from outside the country are legal to block, but didn’t say anything about potential fees. Fortunately the act mentioned above does make sure consumers don’t get dinged for the service.

    Those crappy pre-installed Android apps can be full of security holes

    Summary
    If you’ve ever bought an Android phone, there’s a good chance you booted it up to find it pre-loaded with junk you definitely didn’t ask for. These pre-installed apps can be clunky, annoying to remove, rarely updated… and, it turns out, full of security holes. Security firm Kryptowire built a tool to automatically scan a large number of Android devices for signs of security shortcomings and, in a study funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ran it on phones from 29 different vendors. Now, the majority of these vendors are ones most people have never heard of — but a few big names like Asus, Samsung and Sony make appearances. Kryptowire says they found vulnerabilities of all different varieties, from apps that can be forced to install other apps, to tools that can be tricked into recording audio, to those that can silently mess with your system settings. Some of the vulnerabilities can only be triggered by other apps that come pre-installed (thus limiting the attack vector to those along the supply chain); others, meanwhile, can seemingly be triggered by any app the user might install down the road. Kryptowire has a full list of observed vulnerabilities here, broken down by type and manufacturer. The firm says it found 146 vulnerabilities in all. As Wired points out, Google is well aware of this potential attack route. In 2018 it launched a program called the Build Test Suite (or BTS) that all partner OEMs must pass. BTS scans a device’s firmware for any known security issues hiding amongst its pre-installed apps, flagging these bad apps as Potentially Harmful Applications (or PHAs). As Google puts it in its 2018 Android security report: OEMs submit their new or updated build images to BTS. BTS then runs a series of tests that look for security issues on the system image. One of these security tests scans for pre-installed PHAs included in the system image. If we find a PHA on the build, we work with the OEM partner to remediate and remove the PHA from the build before it can be offered to users. During its first calendar year, BTS prevented 242 builds with PHAs from entering the ecosystem. Anytime BTS detects an issue we work with our OEM partners to remediate and understand how the application was included in the build. This teamwork has allowed us to identify and mitigate systemic threats to the ecosystem. Alas, one automated system can’t catch everything — and when an issue does sneak by, there’s no certainty that a patch or fix will ever arrive (especially on lower-end devices, where long-term support tends to be limited). We reached out to Google for comment on the report, but have yet to hear back. *Update — Google’s response:* We appreciate the work of the research community who collaborate with us to responsibly fix and disclose issues such as these.

    7 new trailers you should watch this week

    Summary
    Image: Paramount Pictures I watched *The Lego Movie 2* a few weeks ago now that it’s finally streaming. The first one was an unexpectedly smart and hilarious take on what a Lego story can be, and this second one does a good job of keeping up the momentum. The film is funny, and it still grounds the whole thing in a story about family and growing up. That said, I do think there’s an odd tension within the movie. The sequel wants to tell a story about toxic masculinity and supporting traditionally feminine interests, but to do that, it kind of makes a joke of them first. Likewise, the film acknowledges related issues like how the original movie played into the trope about an incompetent man becoming the hero thanks to guidance from a fully competent woman... but then... Continue reading…

    Microsoft is killing off its Cortana app for iOS and Android in January

    Summary
    [image: Cortana for Android] Microsoft has revealed that it’s planning to kill off its Cortana app for iOS and Android in January. The software maker has posted a new support article for Cortana users in the UK, Canada, and Australia that reveals Cortana for iOS and Android is disappearing in at least those markets. “To make your personal digital assistant as helpful as possible, we’re integrating Cortana into your Microsoft 365 productivity apps,” reads a support note in the UK. “As part of this evolution, on January 31st, 2020, we’re ending support for the Cortana app on Android and iOS in your market.” It’s not clear if the Cortana for iOS and Android app will continue to operate in the US after January 31st, and we’ve reached out to Microsoft for clarification... Continue reading…

    Disney+ will fix The Simpsons’ joke-destroying 16:9 aspect ratio starting in 2020

    Summary
    [image: The Simpsons] With the launch of Disney+ this week, many fans were excited to have easy access to all 30 seasons of *The Simpsons* — only to find to their chagrin that their original 4:3 aspect ratio had been discarded for a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, cropping out many visual gags entirely. But now, Disney says that it will be fixing this in “early 2020” by making an additional version of the first 19 seasons in 4:3, the way they were intended to be viewed. Here’s Disney’s statement: “We presented “The Simpsons” in 16:9 aspect ratio at launch in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons. Over time, Disney+ will roll out new features and additional viewing options. As part of this, in early 2020, Disney+ will make the... Continue reading…

    With new APIs, Sony’s robot dog could be the smart home assistant you’ve always wanted

    Summary
    Image: Sony Sony says you can now use a web-based API to program its adorable Aibo robot dog to do new tricks — and you might even be able to make it your smart home’s best friend. With its new “aibo Developer Program,” Sony is inviting developers to make “services and applications” that can work with Aibo. I didn’t really understand what that meant until I saw this incredible concept video of what might be possible with the new APIs. Aibo helped monitor a microwave, turn on a robot vacuum, remind a child that she had left the fridge open, and... act as surveillance camera for the child’s mom? Who needs Alexa — a robot dog might be able to help you out around the house instead! To create simpler tasks, there’s “aibo Visual Programming,” which lets... Continue reading…

    Redbox agrees to stop selling Disney download codes

    Summary
    [image: Redbox 2 1024] Redbox 2 1024 Redbox has agreed to stop reselling Disney movies’ digital download codes, according to *The Hollywood Reporter**.* The agreement settles a lawsuit Disney filed over the practice in December 2017. Redbox maintains agreements with film distribution companies like Warner Brothers, which provide Redbox with discs that Redbox then rents out to customers. However, Disney doesn’t have an agreement with Redbox, so Redbox was forced to purchase Disney movies elsewhere in order to offer the films for rent. Disney often bundles DVDs and Blu-rays with digital download codes. Redbox would sell those download codes at cheaper prices than other download retailers like iTunes. Disney filed a lawsuit against this practice, saying that it violated the... Continue reading…

    Huawei's foldable Mate X smartphone goes on sale in China

    Summary
    There's finally a major foldable smartphone on the market beyond the Galaxy Fold... if you live in China. As promised, Huawei has started selling the Mate X through its Vmall online store. It'll cost a steep 16,999 yuan (about $2,400 US), but you'll...

    Redbox will stop selling Disney movie codes as part of settlement

    Summary
    Disney's lawsuit against Redbox is over, and it's not great news for Redbox. The two sides have agreed to a settlement that will have Redbox stop the sale of movie download codes from Disney disc packs. Attorneys for Disney had accused Redbox of vi...

    Google's fight with Oracle will be heard in the Supreme Court

    Summary
    Google is getting one more shot at fending off Oracle's Android copyright claims. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear Google's appeal of a federal appeals court ruling that Android violated Oracle copyright by using Java code without a license....

    Cortana app will stop working on phones in some countries (updated)

    Summary
    Microsoft's changing Cortana strategy is about to have consequences for some phone users. The company has revealed that the Cortana app will stop working after January 31st, 2020 for people in Australia, Canada and the UK. Lists, reminders and other...

    States sue to prevent EPA from revoking state emissions powers

    Summary
    States are taking further legal action to prevent the Trump administration from undoing California's stricter emissions rules. California, 22 other states, DC and the cities of New York and Los Angeles have sued the EPA and other agencies in an attem...

    Cortana app for iOS, Android going silent in UK, Canada, Australia, Microsoft says - CNET

    Summary
    No word yet on the US.

    Best gifts for foodies in 2019 - CNET

    Summary
    A baker's dozen of morsels for people serious about their eats.

    40 gorgeous headphones for people who are sick of black - CNET

    Summary
    Hear the rainbow.

    Get the highly anticipated Pokemon Shield or Sword for just $38 before they sell out (sold out) - CNET

    Summary
    You'll have to pick one or the other, but save $22 this weekend on the latest Pokemon installment.

    The 10 best car insurance companies in the US - Roadshow

    Summary
    These auto insurance companies are essential for safe driving.

    Pro-anorexia forums are dangerous — but they can teach us a lot about community and understanding

    Summary
    In recent years, a cultural movement has emerged online that takes a positive attitude toward eating disorders. So-called pro-anorexia (or, more commonly, ‘pro-ana’) organizations differ widely. Whereas the majority claim to provide a non-judgmental environment for those diagnosed with anorexia, others go further, denying that eating disorders are mental illnesses and casting them instead as ‘lifestyle choices’ that should be respected by doctors and families. As a researcher and psychoanalyst who works with patients with eating disorders, I’ve spent considerable time on pro-anorexia forums carefully analyzing their content. Visiting a pro-ana website for the first time is a visceral experience.… This story continues at The Next Web

    These earbuds have a battery life of 150 hours, and they’re 60% off today.

    Summary
    Funded by an Indiegogo project, the Kharbons are absolutely the real deal. By utilizing IPV6 low energy protocol, these buds actually run on lower power levels than other listening devices. Couple that with their carrying case that doubles as a 2,000 mAh power bank -- and you’ve got a listening setup that can go days without plugging into the wall.

    Europe needs to embrace 5G — before it’s too late

    Summary
    Did you know that the Finnish telecommunications company Nokia is one of the main players in the global mobile infrastructure market? It produces everything to build 5G networks – from antennas to routers and other equipment – and massively exports its products to the USA, Japan, and China. At first glance, this sounds great – it’s just more proof of Europe‘s ability to build and export high tech products. However, when taking a closer look, Nokia‘s example reveals a worrying tendency: it seems that Europe is helping to develop tech innovations somewhere else rather than creating the necessary environment to… This story continues at The Next Web

    CHEAP: It’s your last chance to suck $200 off Roomba’s ‘i-series’ robo-vacuum

    Summary
    Welcome to CHEAP, our series about things that are good, but most of all, cheap. CHEAP! Of all the promises technology has made, the one I care about most is its potential to make my life as simple and carefree as possible. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, tech has had the opposite impact. It’s generally brought along more stresses, more distractions, and more things I don’t really need in my daily life. Yet, there are some bright sparks, some examples of technology that have actually made things simpler, meaning we can spend time doing the things we enjoy. You… This story continues at The Next Web

    Honey bees are dying — but man-made hives could save them

    Summary
    Honey bees are under extreme pressure. Beekeepers in the US have been losing and then replacing an average of 40 percent of their honey bee colonies every year since 2010, a rate that is probably unsustainable and would be unacceptable in other kinds of husbandry. The biggest contributor to this decline is viruses spread by a parasite, Varroa Destructor. But this isn’t a natural situation. The parasite is spread by beekeeping practices, including keeping the bees in conditions that are very different from their natural abode of tree hollows. A few years ago, I demonstrated that the heat losses in… This story continues at The Next Web

    Drawing With Drones Over the Salt Flats of Bolivia

    Summary
    Reuben Wu uses LED-equipped drones to illuminate mysterious shapes in one of the world’s strangest landscapes.

    Hackers Discovered Only After Maxing Out Victim's Cloud Storage

    Summary
    A border privacy win, a suspect Army app, and more of the week's top security news.

    Uber’s Mistakes, 'Ford v Ferrari,' and More Car News

    Summary
    Plus: The deadly design flaws of the B-17 Flying Fortress and a sneaky cat swap.

    Buffy' Should Have Been Set in the Virgin Islands

    Summary
    Author Cadwell Turnbull, who grew up in Saint Thomas, thinks his home territories would have been a better locale for the show.

    16 Best Gifts for Travelers and Frequent Flyers

    Summary
    These gifts will help jet-setters stay their wanderlust woes.

    Huge inflatable breast outside Facebook HQ

    Summary
    Medical tattoo artists takes on Facebook over nipple block and she is joined by cancer patients to protest

    Uber's paradox: Gig work app traps and frees its drivers

    Summary
    Ride pick-up app's algorithm offers drivers freedom while trapping them at the same time, experts say.

    Golden Joystick awards: Resident Evil 2 awarded 'ultimate game' title

    Summary
    Fortnite and streamer Ewok also win, while Yu Suzuki is given the lifetime achievement award.

    Will fibre broadband be obsolete by 2030 - and what about 5G?

    Summary
    Labour promises to give every home in the UK full-fibre internet if it wins the general election.

    Huawei launches foldable Mate X in China

    Summary
    A small batch of Huawei's folding Mate X phone have sold quickly to consumers in China.

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