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Apple explains Face ID on-stage failure

Apple has explained why its new facial recognition feature failed to unlock a handset at an on-stage demo at the iPhone X's launch on Tuesday.

Apple unveils latest £1,000 iPhone X

Apple has unveiled the £1,000 iPhone X, the latest generation of its flagship device. The all-glass device has an edge-to-edge display and no home button. It unlocks using facial recognition software and features wireless charging. 

Apple releases iPhone X (10)

After a decade since its founding CEO, Steve Jobs gave a masterful presentation of what was obviously a revolution to mobile technology, Apple has launched its latest product - the iPhone X or iPhone 10.

Crowdsourcing: Using ICT to bring Diasporan Solutions to Ghana

A month ago, the Diaspora Homecoming Summit was held in Accra with the aim of mobilising Ghanaians living abroad to invest in the country and contribute to national development.  This is a clear indication that Ghana recognises the benefits diasporans offer in our quest for development. 

Why are Samsung's emojis different from everyone else?

It’s a tricky life, being an emoji designer. Unicode, the consortium that controls the key standard used to digitally encode writing, picks which emojis need to be included, but until recently offered little guidance beyond a name and a black and white illustration.

Game of Thrones: HBO hackers threaten leak of season finale

The hackers who compromised HBO’s network systems in July have threatened to leak the final two episodes of Game of Thrones.

The “Mr Smith group” of hackers told tech site Mashable that it has access to “many HBO platforms” and that HBO should be “ready” for the leak of episode six, which aired on Sunday, and episode seven of its biggest hit immediately ahead of the show’s finale at the end of the week.

The hackers also gave Mashable a list of the usernames and passwords for a number of HBO’s social media accounts, including its primary @HBO Twitter account. Last week the OurMine hacking group took control of HBO’s social media, including the Game of Thrones Twitter account.

The US TV network has refused to pay a multimillion dollar ransom demand to the hackers, who compromised the network’s systems in July and have since leaked a series of embarrassing documents, emails and unaired shows, including Game of Thrones and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Game of Thrones is already one of the most pirated TV shows of all time. Experts have argued that due to the prevalence of TV show piracy, threats of releasing unaired episodes were not enough to coerce payment.

Alex Heid, chief research officer at risk management firm SecurityScorecard said: “Pirated content ends up on Pirate Bay within 24 hours of airing. Any show on HBO, any movie, the moment it’s released, on the first day, you see it on pirated internet streams.”

Analysts agree that HBO was aided by the fact that the hackers only released a few shows and that an entire season wasn’t released in one go, forcing viewers who wanted to watch it as soon as possible to subscribe to the TV network.

More potentially damaging to HBO could be the release of further sensitive information. Previous dumps listing actors’ personal details, scripts, shooting plans and a trove of emails. Up to now the damage caused to HBO by the leaks has paled in comparison to the chaos caused by the hacks on Sony Pictures in 2014.

A person familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to speak publicly, said HBO was proactive in communicating with the Game of Thrones actors ahead of their personal information being released to the public, which may have helped mitigate the impact of confidential data leaks.

Richard Levick, the head of crisis-management firm Levick, said that being upfront with employees, customers and third parties about cyberattacks is essential. He said: “You can’t sweep it under the rug. You can’t be opaque about it.”

Game of Thrones secrets revealed as HBO Twitter accounts hacked

Several HBO Twitter accounts were hacked and taken over by the notorious OurMine hacking group, posting #HBOHacked messages and warnings about security.

OurMine took control of the main HBO Twitter account on Wednesday, as well as those for TV shows including Game of Thrones and Girls, posting its usual statement:

“Hi, OurMine are here, we are just testing your security, HBO team please contact us to upgrade the security.”

The messages from OurMine were removed within an hour of their appearance, with HBO seemingly taking back control of its accounts. An HBO spokesperson said the TV network was “investigating” the hack.

OurMine has a history of compromising sites and Twitter accounts, with high-profile victims including Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, former Twitter boss Dick Costolo, young adult novelist Hank Green, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi Zuckerberg, and actor Channing Tatum, as well as websites TechCrunch and Buzzfeed.

It is not known how OurMine infiltrated the Twitter accounts, but it could have found details in the systematic leaks of confidential information emerging from a hack that occurred in July, giving attackers access to 1.5TB of data, equivalent to several TV box sets or millions of documents.

The hackers holding HBO to ransom after the July attack leaked further sensitive information Wednesday, including files from the second season of the hit show Westworld and the seventh season Game of Thrones, revealing shooting diaries, schedules and potential spoilers.

The fresh dump of files was distributed by somebody calling themselves “Mr Smith” saying: “If history repeats itself HBO may never be the same again. Winter really is here.”

HBO declined to comment on the fresh leaks.

The hackers publicly demanded in excess of $6m (£4.6m) in ransom to prevent the release of unaired TV shows and confidential information in August. They dumped the personal contact details of Game of Thrones actors online alongside HBO network passwords and emails from the firm’s vice president for film programming.

They also leaked unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Insecure, Ballers, Barry and The Deuce, leading to HBO stating it would not participate further with the hackers after first offering a $250,000 bug bounty, potentially as a stalling tactic.

Separately, an error by its own Nordic and Spanish sites saw the sixth episode of HBO’s biggest hit, Game of Thrones, leak online ahead of its broadcast on Sunday. HBO blamed a third-party vendor for the error.

How to take pictures of the solar eclipse with your smartphone`

A solar eclipse can make for a stunning photograph and at this year's great eclipse, among the hundreds of professional photographers vying for the best shots, there will be thousands of onlookers trying to get a picture with their smartphone.

The Great American Eclipse will take place on Monday August 21, but there will be people all over the world trying to take the perfect picture of the solar event.

Although we won't see a perfect alignment in the UK, we will be able to see a partial eclipse (where the Moon covers only a part of the Sun). If you want to try and get a picture of this or future eclipses, here are some tips to get the best results.


How to photograph the solar eclipse

Getting a great shot of a solar eclipse is something expert photographers can take years to master, travelling the world to secure the best images.

Top photographers will use powerful cameras fitted to telescopes to get the best shots, attaching sun filters so as not to ruin their camera (or their eyes) when preparing the shot.

But if, like many people, you plan to grab a picture of the eclipse using your smartphone there are some simple ways to improve the results.

Choose your smartphone camera

We don't suggest you buy a new smartphone just to photograph the eclipse, but some models will be particularly suited to taking a great picture of the eclipse.

Apple's iPhone 7 has one of the best smartphone cameras out this year, while the Google Pixel was marketed as having one of the best smartphone cameras available on Android. Other great phone cameras include those on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the OnePlus 5.

Find the best place to view the eclipse

Sadly Brits won't get a total eclipse, unlike our friends in the US, but we will be treated to a partial eclipse, which will still be worth watching.  You will be able to photograph it in the UK, but make sure to always wear protective glasses as the Sun's light will never totally be covered by the Moon.

The partial eclipse will be visible in parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from around 19:35 on August 21. For the best photos, make sure you're in a spot where there's no cloud and away from bright lights in the city.

Prepare your phone and choose your settings

You should practice taking pictures of the moon first to get the right distance before taking these steps to get the perfect shot, according to the Nasa space agency.

1.Turn off flash and autofocus: Your phone will automatically try and focus on when you point it at the eclipse, which will ruin your shot as it tries to compensate for the light. Turn off autofocus and always turn off flash or you will ruin your shot, your dark vision and the viewing experience of others.

2.Reduce exposure: On your Android smartphone or iPhone there are ways to reduce exposure to control the amount of light reaching the lens. You will want to slide the exposure down to improve the quality of pictures when focusing on the bright light around the sun.

3.Attach a filter: This is important as it can stop your camera getting damaged. A filter will be needed if pointing the lens at the sun for a long period of time. This can be done by simple holding a pair of eclipse eyeglasses across the camera. "The best thing to do is to cover the camera lens with a solar filter during the moments before (and after) totality when the sunlight is still blinding," Nasa advises. "This will eliminate sun blooming and give you a clear image of the solar disk."

4.Attach a lens: Rather than the relatively small amount of zoom you can achieve with a normal smartphone camera, using a lens will give you 12x to 18x the level of zoom you would normally expect. "At this magnification, the total solar eclipse will also look much nicer because you will be able to start to see details in the shape of the corona," Nasa says.

5.Use a tripod: You can pick up a small but sturdy tripod for a little over £15 online. These can be attached to your smartphone and then placed on the ground or on a stable surface, while a timer can be set to take the photos.

How to reduce exposure on iPhone and Android

Reducing exposure - limiting the amount of light that can come into your smartphone camera - is important to clear away all the excess light that will ruin the quality of your eclipse picture.

On an iPhone, tap the screen on the camera app. You will then see a small sun icon appear next to the area of focus, which can be dragged up or down to increase or decrease exposure.

The same trick works on Android, although some phones have a "Pro Mode" where you can find the EV (exposure value) to manually change exposure.

Use a smart photo app

There are some great photography apps that can help you take an even better picture of the solar eclipse, if you are looking for something a little more advanced from your smartphone.

You will also want to try and capture images in RAW, which will give you more detail than a normal Jpeg image. This can be done on some smartphones, others may require a specialist app, such as Manual or Snap Camera, to capture these more detailed pictures.

Use a tripod and a lens

To get a truly accurate shot of the eclipse, or for general night photography with your smartphone, it is worth investing in a tripod and a lens. The lens will offer superior zoom for your shot, while the tripod will help stablise the camera and reduce "noise" - or distortion - in your pictures.
Joby GorillPod

One of the lightest and most versatile camera tripods around, the GorillaPod is perfect for angling your camera. The legs are easily manipulated and lock into place automatically. It can even use its long legs to wrap around poles or posts to provide different viewing angles.

Don't forget your viewing glasses

These are the safest way of viewing the eclipse directly, other than through a telescope fitted with a professional filter. Eclipse viewers are made from card and inlaid with a special material that cuts the Sun's light down 100,000 times. Make sure to check for holes or scratches as it is only safe if undamaged.

Above all, don't waste too much time trying to score the perfect social media photo. If you are lucky enough to see the full eclipse, make sure you get a good look before trying to grab an Instagram picture.

South Korea introduces world's first 'robot tax'

South Korea has introduced what is being called the world's first tax on robots amid fears that machines will replace human workers, leading to mass unemployment.

The country will limit tax incentives for investments in automated machines as part of a newly proposed revision of its tax laws.

It is hoped the policy will make up for lost income taxes as workers are gradually replaced by machines, as well as filling welfare coffers ahead of an expected rise in unemployment, according to the Korea Times.

Experts predict robot workers will replace humans in numerous industries in the near future, with machines and artificial intelligence expected to take a third of British jobs by 2030.

The South Korean Government said it will reduce tax deduction benefits for investment in automation, which had been introduced to boost productivity. The proposal could come into force at the end of the year, when the country's current tax law is due to expire.

"Though it is not about a direct tax on robots, it can be interpreted as a similar kind of policy considering that both involve the same issue of industrial automation," an industry source told the Korea Times.

Korea is the first country to implement a robot tax, but it is not the only one to have proposed a technology levy.

Bill Gates has previously called for a tax on robots to balance the Government's income as jobs are lost to automation. He said the levy could help slow down the pace of change and provide money to hire additional employees in sectors that require people, such as health care.   

"Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things," said Gates in February. "If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level."

Companies and robotics companies have criticised such proposals, saying a tax on robots would be detrimental to businesses and impede innovation.

Industries most at risk from automation include transportation, manufacturing and waste management, according to PwC. Robots are less likely to replace humans in roles that require critical thinking and creativity.

British firms have already started trialing robots in the workplace, with roles including food delivery, receptionist and office management.  

Vanishing app: Snapchat struggles as Facebook bites back

Is Snapchat – the social media app famous for its disappearing messages – in danger of doing a vanishing act of its own? It’s a question some are asking after investors turned on the company again this week following a second set of poor results which have turned a once-hot tech company into a stock market casualty.

The losses alone were steep. Snapchat’s parent, Snap Inc, lost $443m over the last three months, compared with $116m in the same period a year ago. Young tech companies are expected to burn through cash at a prodigious rate as they chase customers, but the main worry for shareholders was anaemic user growth, missed revenue targets and the threat from Facebook and Google – both of which have copied some of Snapchat’s key features. Imitation may well be the most sincere form of flattery, but in this case it could also be the most deadly.

On top of these woes, Snap has a money problem. Wall Street cares about revenues in a way that Silicon Valley doesn’t. Life has changed for Snap Inc and its newly minted billionaire co-founder, Evan Spiegel, since the company went public in March.

According to market watchers, the Los Angeles-based business has to work out a way to make money – fast – before rivals eat its lunch. “There is a lot of heavy competition and the company has not figured out how to monetise its audience yet,” said Salvatore Recco, of the advisory firm 50 Park Investments. “Until they do, investors will likely continue to be disappointed.”

Investors want to know how much money the company will make, and when. This quarter they were let down again. With its young, mobile-obsessed users, Snap offered advertisers a way to reach the all-important millennial market. But the business, whose main offering is a messaging service where people can use filters to change their faces and voices, is not growing the amount of money made per customer as quickly as investors had hoped. Shares in Snap were trading at $12.26 on Friday – nearly half their opening price of $24 when the business floated in March.

Shareholders are always scouring the tech industry for the next Facebook, and Snap is the latest contender for the crown – or at least that was the case when it floated on Wall Street. The only problem is that Facebook is crushing all newcomers. In the second quarter of the year, Snap reported that it had 173 million daily active users. Not only did this undershoot analysts’ expectations of 175 million, but it paled in comparison with the 250 million users of Facebook’s Instagram Stories, where users and businesses can post a string of photos and videos that – like Snapchat messages – disappear after 24 hours.

Snap sees itself as two things: a technology firm reinventing the camera (hence the rebrand to Snap Inc and the creation of its Spectacles camera-glasses), and an MTV for the 21st century, exemplified by its Discover offering, where media brands post mobile phone-friendly content aimed at millennials. But investors don’t really care about the lofty goals that Spiegel reels out in analyst calls. Being the next MTV is all well and good but investors want the next Facebook and all the profit-making opportunities that entails.

The flaw in the plan is that Facebook will not sit back and watch Snap steal its thunder, and after three years of trying to alternately buy, clone and undercut its upstart rival, Facebook’s fightback is starting to have an effect.

Snapchat’s most promising recent launch was Stories, a feature that allows users to post their snaps to a feed that can be viewed multiple times for 24 hours after they’re uploaded. It turned the app from a photo messaging service, still (unfairly) saddled with the brand image of teen sexting, to a fully fledged social network.

In the process, it also managed to appeal to users who had grown up wary of posting images to services which catalogue and archive them indefinitely: no employer will find incriminating Snapchat stories from a decade ago, and no date will scroll through a year’s worth of pictures to spy on ex-lovers.

So Facebook copied it. The company now has four separate clones of Stories, in WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and Facebook itself. Three of them are far from popular, but Instagram Stories has soared. According to the data firm Snaplytics, “while Snapchat has had a downward-going slope in terms of influencer activity, Instagram Stories is gaining more and more traction.”

But it is not all doom and gloom: Snapchat still has far deeper engagement, with the average user spending more than twice the time in the app than the typical Instagrammer. It is also making it easier for advertisers to use the app, analysts say.

This is just as well, because the dream-big plan is struggling. Snap is not taking off as a camera company: the company sold 42,000 camera-spectacles, down 35% on the quarter before. That includes almost a month when the gadget was available outside the US for the first time, leading to vending machines standing forlornly ignored outside tourist attractions in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

However, Snapchat’s augmented-reality “lenses” – which superimpose special effects like cartoon dog features on users’ faces – remain genuinely popular and have a greater appeal than similar products from Facebook. Even if you are not on Snapchat, you have probably seen someone’s selfie doctored with dog ears.

Now, Snapchat has a third breakthrough filter: a dancing hotdog, that has gyrated virtually on people’s screens around the world. It has been viewed, according to Evan Spiegel, by 1.5 billion people, making it “the world’s first virtual reality superstar”. If grooving meat can be monetised for millions, then Snapchat still has a way out of the doldrums.