Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 India Launch Date, Flipkart's iPhone Deals

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Redmi Note 5 leaked even before Redmi Note 4 launches in India
  • MumbaiWiFi offers 500 hotspots for unlimited free use till end of January
  • Yahoo to be renamed to Altaba after Verizon acquisition

Monday was the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone and Apple’s VP of World Wide Marketing Phil Schiller gave an interview where he talked about the glorious last 10 years for the company. Today, we’re back to the average day in consumer technology – which like most days, is full of launches, announcements, and other breaking news. Here are your top stories for the day.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 India Launch Date, Flipkart's iPhone Deals, and More: Your 360 Daily

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 leaked, before the Redmi Note 4 India launch
The Redmi Note 4 has been out since August 2016, and on Tuesday it got a date of arrival in India, but rumours of a Redmi Note 5 have already begun surfacing on the Internet. A phone by that name has apparently passed the US FCC certification and could come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652, Quick Charge 3.0, and MIUI 9 based on Android 7.0 Nougat.

Samsung Gear S3 models launched in India
Electronics giant Samsung at an event in New Delhi launched a successor to Gear series of smartwatches – the Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier. The new watches run on the company’s homemade Tizen OS, with 4G connectivity on the Frontier for an untethered experience. Read more about the rest of the features and pricing in our launch story.

Razer is offering $25,000 for information on stolen laptop
You may have read about Razer’s Project Valerie, a laptop with three screens that was shown during CES 2017. Apparently, two of the three demo units were stolen. The company is working with law enforcement authorities to get to the bottom of the crime, and will offer $25,000 to those who can offer credible information regarding the theft.

Mumbai: 500 public Wi-Fi hotspots, toilet finder app launched
In what will be India’s biggest public Wi-Fi network, phase 1 of MumbaiWiFi was launched that enables 500 hotspots across the city. On May 1st, another 700 hotspots are said to be added to the initial offering. The offering is said to be free for an unlimited amount of data till the end of January. In related news, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will finalise its views on public WiFi networks in the next 20-25 days, with focus on low-cost WiFi networks that cost 10 percent of today’s data costs.

In another tech news related to Mumbai, the local authorities have launched an Android app that helps people find pay-and-use toilets in the city. Over 800 public restrooms have been tagged, and more will follow.

Flipkart offers discounts on Apple products
Dubbed ‘Apple Fest’, ecommerce platform Flipkart is offering a flat Rs. 5,000 discount on products like the iPhone 7 among others. Also on offer is an additional Rs. 3,000 if you exchange an old phone, for which you may fetch up to Rs. 23,000. Finally, there are interest-free EMIs on select credit cards as well. Check out offer details on all products here.

In other news, Flipkart promoted its top-tier person Kalyan Krishnamurthy to the company CEO position, and elevate current CEO Binny Bansal as the CEO of Flipkart Group organisation.

Housing and PropTiger to merge
Real-estate catalogue companies PropTiger and Housing are merging and are raising $55 million dollars in fresh investment in the joint entity. Dhruv Agarwala, CEO of PropTiger, will take over the numero uno position in this JV, while Housing CEO Jason Kothari will move to other opportunities. Housing’s estimated valuation was pegged at $70-75 million (roughly Rs. 476-510 crores), which is a downfall from the $120 million it had raised during its peak.

ZTE to cut 3,000 jobs
ZTE, the China based telecom multinational, is said to be cutting 3,000 jobs as its handset business struggles in its home market. The job cuts attribute to 5 percent of its 60,000 workforce. ZTE is the fourth-largest vendor of of smartphones in the United States, with a 10 percent market share. Its CEO had said that the company had “encountered its biggest crisis in its 31 year history” a few days ago at a New Year speech to the staff.

Yahoo to be renamed to ‘Altaba’, Marissa Mayer to leave board
After its sale to Verizon, the iconic name of the internet company ‘Yahoo’ is being changed to Altaba. The company also confirmed that CEO Marissa Mayer will quit the company’s board after the acquisition is complete. Yahoo co-founder David Filo will also be resigning from the board. Mayer is said to continue working for the new company.

iPhone 8 Price, HTC 10 evo Launch, YouTube Go Comes to India, and More: Your 360 Daily Rohan Naravane, 09 February 2017

HIGHLIGHTS

  • It doesn’t seem like the sell-kidney-for-iPhone jokes are going to stop
  • YouTube Go is a dedicated app for watching and sharing videos offline
  • SoftBank loses $300 million in India after investing in Ola, Snapdeal

The world has already had enough of the selling-kidney-to-buy-iPhone jokes, but unfortunately those may not stop, as the high-end variant of the iPhone 8 is said to cost $1,000 (roughly Rs. 68,000) in the US. If true, after all the taxes and duties added, this iPhone SKU might end up costing upwards of Rs. 80,000 in India. One of the reasons cited for the price bump is a switch to OLED displays instead of LCD. Fortunately, this is said to be the pricing of the highest-end model in the lineup, with a cheaper ‘iPhone 7s’ and ‘iPhone 7s Plus’ starting out at the usual $649.

Let’s move on to the remaining top stories of the day.

iPhone 8 Price, HTC 10 evo Launch, YouTube Go Comes to India, and More: Your 360 Daily

1) HTC 10 evo launched in India at Rs. 48,990
The HTC 10 evo is available for sale in the country at a price tag of Rs. 48,990. It’s got a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, water-resistance and comes with Android 7.0 Nougat. What sticks sorely for this otherwise interesting high-end device is the use of the Snapdragon 810 chip from 2015, which was known for notorious heating issues in phones like the Xperia Z3+. We wonder at the response HTC will receive for the product.

2) YouTube Go launched in India for shareable, offline videos
A common sight when using public transport today in India is of people watching videos on their smartphones. To push YouTube adoption without paying for mobile data, the YouTube Go app is a standalone app from Google that lets you download videos and watch them offline later. It also has a convenient ‘send’ and ‘receive’ feature, that allows for transferring downloaded videos to other YouTube Go users locally, without using mobile data.

 

3) Android Wear 2.0 launched with two new LG smartwatches
After a delay of several months, the next major update to Android Wear – dubbed Android Wear 2.0 – is out. Two new watches from LG, namely the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport, run this new operating system, while other compatible watches will get the update eventually. Android Wear 2.0 brings the Google Assistant to the wrist, along with other features like the ability to install apps directly on the watch, Android Pay integration, keyboard input, etc. Those LG watches mentioned above are priced at $249 (roughly Rs. 17,000) and $349 (roughly Rs. 24,000) respectively.

4) 170 days after its release, Android Nougat only runs on 1 percent of all Android devices
This should come as no surprise, considering there are many stakeholders in the Android update process. Android 7.0 Nougat, the most recent version of Android, despite being launched almost half a year ago, only runs on 1 percent of active Android devices. Android 5.0 Lollipop, which was out in 2014, is still the most used Android version to date.

5) SoftBank loses $350 million on India investments like Ola, Snapdeal
Japanese company Softbank has reported an investment loss of $350 million (roughly Rs. 2,345 crores) on its investments in India, which include cab-hailing service Ola and e-commerce platform Snapdeal. The Japanese firm has so far invested close to $2 billion in India and earlier this year it stated that it is looking to scale up investments to $10 billion in next 5-10 years.

6) 5G is official now, has its own logo
The 3GPP cellular standards group has officially christened the next generation of wireless communication technology as 5G. The logo has a familiar design as the official 4G logo that came before it. The final specifications of 5G are said to complete by 2018, with the next phase being completed by 2020.

7) Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon argue GST’s tax collection at source provision
At a press conference organised by FICCI on Thursday, the heads of Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal all found common cause as they expressed their worries about the TCS (Tax Collection at Source) provision of the GST (Goods and Services Tax). Under this provision, online marketplaces are responsible for collecting – and paying – taxes on behalf of their sellers. This is something that all three companies, the major players in the e-commerce space in India, are against, as they argue it will hamper the growth of e-commerce.

8) Idea Money Adopts USSD-based digital payments
Idea Cellular today said it has enabled USSD-based platform for shopkeepers and customers to conduct digital transactions using Idea Money service. USSD is mobile short code that enables financial and banking transactions even on feature phones.

Moto G5 Plus India Launch, Airtel Free Roaming, Paytm’s 200 Million Users, and More: Your 360 Daily

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Moto G5 Plus to be launched in India on March 15
  • Airtel ends roaming charges on incoming and outgoing calls
  • Paytm user base hits 200 million, new Paytm Mall app launched

Just a day after the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus global launch, Lenovo has sent out invites announcing the India launch date of the latter. The invite says that the Moto G5 Plus will be launched in India on March 15, but there was no mention of the Moto G5 for the domestic market. At the MWC 2017 event, Moto G5 Plus price for the 2GB RAM + 32GB variant was announced as $229 (roughly Rs. 15,300), whereas the 3GB RAM + 32GB model has been priced at $279 (approximately Rs. 19,700). Price of the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage model has not been announced so far.

Moto G5 Plus India Launch, Airtel Free Roaming, Paytm’s 200 Million Users, and More: Your 360 Daily

The new Moto G5 Plus has a 5.2-inch full-HD screen, 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 chipset, microSD card expansion up to 128GB, 12-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash, 5-megapixel front camera, 3000mAh battery with TurboPower fast charging technology. On the software side, the Moto G5 Plus runs the Android 7.0 Nougat operating system and supports Google Assistant AI-based digital assistant, along with features such as Moto Display, Moto Actions, Twist, and a new One Button Nav that allows users to navigate the interface using the fingerprint sensor.

But this is not the only launch to get excited about, as MWC 2017 saw a number of smartphones and other devices being announced. Let’s take a look at those, and more, in 360 Daily. For other MWC stories including all the announcements from Nokia, LG, Moto, Samsung, and others, check out our MWC hub.

Oppo unveils 5x Dual Camera Zoom system
At the ongoing MWC 2017, Oppo unveiled its new 5x Dual Camera Zoom system, which features a periscope-style setup that is claimed to kill the need of the camera bump on the back because of its 5.7mm thickness. The 5x Dual Camera Zoom system packs more than 50 parts which have been stacked in a 5.7mm module. Oppo’s new camera zoom system diverts light through a prism into a stabilised telephoto lens set at a 90-degree angle. The new imaging system will make its way to Oppo smartphones later this year.

Airtel announces ‘war on roaming’ with free incoming calls in all circles
Airtel has repealed roaming charges for users for incoming calls outside their home circle, terming this a “war on roaming.” India’s biggest telecom operator also said that it will stop premium charges on outgoing calls while roaming. For international roaming starting April 1 2017, the company will offer customers protection from bill shocks. Call charges have been reduced by up to 90 percent to as low as Rs. 3 per minute on international roaming, while data charges by up to 99 percent to Rs. 3 per MB in popular roaming destinations, Airtel said on Monday.

Paytm Mall app launched for standalone e-commerce services
Paytm has spun off the e-commerce part of its app into a standalone app named Paytm Mall, while the wallet business remains in the main app. The Paytm Mall app features the expected categories, such as electronics, fashion, furnishings, and so on. Cashback offers that were provided on the Paytm app e-commerce transactions till now are offered on the Paytm Mall app. The company also announced today that its user base has crossed the 200 million mark.

 

Lenovo Tab 4 series Android tablets launched
While Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 and Galaxy Book were the tablets of note at MWC 2017, Lenovo launched its new Tab 4 series models at the event. The four Lenovo tablets, named Tab 4 8, Tab 4 10, Tab 4 8 Plus, and Tab 4 10 Plus, run Android 7.0 Nougat and offer battery life of up to 12 hours, the company said. The four models are being targeted at both kids and adults, and come with multi-user mode.

The Lenovo Tab 4 8 and Tab 4 10 sport 8-inch and 10.1-inch displays, respectively; both feature HD screens, Snapdragon 425 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and come in 16GB and 32GB storage options. The respective Plus models feature the same screen size but come with Snapdragon 625 processor and 3GB of RAM.

Samsung Gear VR 2017 edition launched, comes with touch controller
The Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headset received an update at MWC 2017, and it will now come with a VR controller which, Samsung says, makes it easier for the user to interact with VR apps and games. With the controller, users will be able to “point, drag and drop, tilt, shoot, among other actions, while the Trigger allows for enhanced gaming experiences.” The new Gear VR headset has 42mm lenses with 101-degree FOV (Field of View) and “advanced distortion correction technology” to minimise users’ motion sickness.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the first phone with Snapdragon 835 processor, launched
Sony surprised one and all with the launch of its Xperia XZ Premium smartphone, the first model with the new Snapdragon 835 chipset. However, while Sony beat Samsung – which has dibs on the new Qualcomm SoC – in announcing the first such smartphone, the new Xperia XZ Premium will not be available for purchase till Spring this year. The new Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a 5.5-inch 4K display, 4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, up to 256GB microSD card support, 19-megapixel rear camera with the new Motion Eye camera system, 13-megapixel front camera, Android 7.0 Nougat software, and a 3230mAh battery.

This was, however, not the only Sony launch at MWC 2017, as the company also unveiled the Xperia XZs, Xperia XA1 Ultra, and Xperia XA1 smartphones. Along with these, the company also launched the Xperia Touch interactive Android projector that can turn any surface into a touchscreen panel; it will be launched in April.

Gionee A1, A1 Plus selfie phones with big batteries launched
While for most brands selfie phones and big battery phones are two distinct niches, Gionee has gone ahead and combined the two with the new Android Nougat-based Gionee A1 and Gionee A1 Plus smartphones. Launched at MWC 2017, the new Gionee A1 has a 16-megapixel front camera and 40101mAh battery, while the Gionee A1 Plus comes with a 20-megapixel sensor in front and packs a 4550mAh battery.

Gionee A1 has a 5.5-inch full-HD screen, Helio P10 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage, microSD support, 13-megapixel rear camera, and fingerprint sensor on the back. The Gionee A1 Plus has a bigger 6-inch full-HD screen, MediaTek Helio P25 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB inbuilt storage, microSD expansion, and dual 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel cameras on the back.

Disclosure: Paytm’s parent company One97 is an investor in Gadgets 360

Facebook's Virtual Reality Ambitions Could Be Threatened by Court Order

Facebook Inc’s big ambitions in the nascent virtual reality industry could be threatened by a court order that would prevent it from using critical software code another company claims to own, according to legal and industry experts.

Last Thursday, video game publisher ZeniMax Media Inc asked a Dallas federal judge to issue an order barring Facebook unit Oculus from using or distributing the disputed code, part of the software development kit that Oculus provides to outside companies creating games for its Rift VR headset.

A decision is likely a few months away, but intellectual property lawyers said ZeniMax has a decent chance of getting the order, which would mean Facebook faces a tough choice between paying a possibly hefty settlement or fighting on at risk of jeopardizing its position in the sector.

For now, Facebook is fighting on. Oculus spokeswoman Tera Randall said last Thursday the company would challenge a $500 million jury verdict on February 1 against Oculus and its co-founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe for infringing ZeniMax’s copyrighted code and violating a non-disclosure agreement.

Randall said Oculus would possibly file an appeal that would “allow us to put this litigation behind us.”

She did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

An injunction would require Oculus, which Facebook acquired for $3 billion in 2014, to stop distributing the code to developers or selling those games that use it.

Such a court order “would put a huge stumbling block in front” of Oculus, said Stephanie Llamas, an analyst with gaming market research firm SuperData. It would offer the company’s rivals in the new market, which include HTC, Sony Corp, Alphabet Inc and others an “important opportunity for them to become first movers.”

Sales of the Rift itself would not be barred, but Llamas, said a lack of available titles could hinder Facebook’s offering relative to HTC’s Vive headset and Sony’s PlayStation VR.

That market is relatively small at the moment – sales of VR hardware and software totaled $2.7 billion in 2016 – and mainly limited to gaming. But Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has predicted the technology “will become a part of daily life for billions of people,” revolutionizing social media, entertainment and medicine.

SuperData says the VR market will be worth $37 billion by 2020. Likewise, investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald last year issued a report predicting VR would account for 10 percent of Facebook revenue in four years’ time.

ZeniMax’s lawsuit arose from 2012 correspondence between Luckey and famed video game developer John Carmack, creator of the Doom and Quake series and then a ZeniMax employee. Luckey signed a non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax covering his communications with Carmack.Facebook's Virtual Reality Ambitions Could Be Threatened by Court Order

Carmack joined Oculus in 2013 as chief technology officer. ZeniMax sued in 2014, claiming Carmack’s work while its employee was crucial to the Rift. At trial, Facebook said ZeniMax concocted its claims because of “sour grapes” over missing the VR trend.

Zuckerberg testified that “the idea that Oculus products are based on someone else’s technology is just wrong.”

The jury decided Oculus had not stolen trade secrets but had infringed ZeniMax’s intellectual property. It also said Oculus breached the non-disclosure agreement.

IP lawyers said the judge would consider factors such as whether ZeniMax continues to be harmed and whether money is sufficient compensation.

Edward Naughton, a Boston-based copyright lawyer with Brown Rudnick, said ZeniMax has a strong argument because its technology continues to be used without its permission and the jury’s verdict does not compensate for that.

“I think they have a pretty good shot here,” Naughton said.

Mitchell Shelowitz, a copyright lawyer in New York, noted that the non-disclosure agreement explicitly stated ZeniMax would be entitled to an injunction in the event its terms were violated.

Not all lawyers agree ZeniMax has the stronger position. Chicago-based IP lawyer Joshua Rich said he thinks Facebook has a good chance to repel the injunction by arguing that ZeniMax is not being harmed by the sale of the Oculus products because it is not direct competitor.

If Facebook can get past the injunction fight, the calculus could change, said Naughton. Facebook may believe it has strong arguments on appeal or, because it has so much cash on hand, it may hope to wear ZeniMax down to the point where it settles on favorable terms.

“Facebook has deep pockets,” said Naughton. “That allows them to put their opponent into litigation fatigue.”

Is your printer tracking you?

Question: Is it true that color laser printers print invisible dots to ID the printer on every page?

Answer: The leaked top-secret document that led to the arrest of government contractor Reality Winner has caused a long-running privacy issue to resurface.

The hidden yellow dot ID pattern technology on some color laser printers has actually been around since Xerox developed it in the ’90s.

The primary reason for the dots is purportedly to help the Secret Service in counterfeiting cases. Color copiers and laser printers became so good at reproducing colors that they become a tool for counterfeiters some time ago.

Not all color copiers and laser printers print the dots, but for obvious reasons, the printer manufacturers and law enforcement don’t generally acknowledge which printers do and which ones don’t.

Office printer

Privacy concerns

Privacy advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been calling attention to this for almost a decade. Their position is that your printer shouldn’t be another tool for government surveillance.

In the Winner case, it’s believed to be what led to her arrest because the dots were easily viewed on the document published online by the Intercept.

What gets tracked?

When decoded, the yellow dots can indicate the make, model and serial number of the printer and, in some cases, the date and time.

With this information, law enforcement can potentially track down the owner of the printer by following the serial number from the manufacturer to the reseller and then to the purchaser.

Making the dots visible

By design, it’s nearly impossible to see the dots with the naked eye, so you’ll want a way to magnify any page that you want to inspect.

Using a microscope or magnifying glass with magnification power of 10x or better to view a blank part of a printed document should allow you to see the dots, if they exist.

If you want to make it easier, use a bright blue LED flashlight in a dark room, which should turn the yellow dots a dark blue or black.

If you have a good quality scanner and a graphics program that can zoom and invert the colors, you can also find the pattern, which should repeat itself throughout the page.

List of known printers

The EFF has published a list of printers that it says do and do not display the tracking dots, but it’s neither up to date nor is it a complete list.

In some cases, the printer manufacturer will acknowledge the use of the tracking information in their documentation, but it’s not easy to find even if they do.

What can you do?

Technically speaking, setting your color laser to print in black and white won’t allow the yellow dots to be printed.

If you have to use color and are concerned about the tracking dots on a known printer, there is nothing you can do to stop them, short of getting rid of the printer.

If you are overly concerned, switching to either a color inkjet or any type of black-only printer will ensure that the tracking dots won’t be included.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question at: facebook.com/DataDoctors or on Twitter @TheDataDoc.

Google Cloud Print is ready to spool in beta, if you have a Windows PC handy

Google blew the lid off of Chrome OS yesterday in a big way, and one of its key features is now ready to roll. Cloud Print was unveiled back in April, a method to enable Google mobile devices to print via nebulous networking, and it’s now here

 with some caveats. The biggest being that right now the only host for a non Cloud Print-compatible printer (basically all but this one) is a Windows PC running Chrome 9.0.597.1 or greater. Set up the service through there and the browser will host your good ‘ol printer to your Chrome OS device. Don’t have a Chrome OS device? You will. Eventually more printers will support this natively, eliminating the middleman, and we’re sure printing support will be coming to Androiddown the road too. When? In due time, fair reader. In due time.

Chrome OS is ready to use printers without the cloud

Despite decades of attempts to straighten out the connections between printers and computers, it’s a situation that always (at least for me) seems to have an extra complication. On Chrome OS, ever since launch it has by default relied on Google Cloud Print and compatible printers to get the job done, but now that version 59 has reached the Stable release channel, it’s a little easier to use.

That’s because it has a new ability for “Native Printing,” which basically means that it can connect directly to compatible printers on your network, without the need for any cloud connection at all. Some manufacturers and third parties have been getting around the cloud print requirement with extensions like this one, but now support is built in and available to everyone.

Chrome OS printer dialog box

You’ll need to know your printer’s IP address to make things work, as well as which protocol it supports. According to Google’s FAQ, for most printers that will be IPP, which is what allows many printers to connect to other devices like your phone or tablet. As Chrome OS spreads throughout schools and businesses, the ability to work with existing hardware has become more important, and at least now you’re probably not looking at a printer replacement along with your new operating system.

Computer printers have been quietly embedding tracking codes in documents for decades

In 2004, when color printers were still somewhat novel, PCWorld magazine published an article headlined: “Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents.”

It was one of the first news reports on a quiet practice that had been going on for 20 years. It revealed that color printers embed in printed documents coded patterns that contain the printer’s serial number, and the date and time the documents were printed. The patterns are made up of dots, less than a millimeter in diameter and a shade of yellow that, when placed on a white background, cannot be detected by the naked eye.

Printer_Steganography_Illustration
The dots are less than a millimeter in diameter and invisible to the naked eye (Wikimedia Commons)

 

In 2004, when color printers were still somewhat novel, PCWorld magazine published an article headlined: “Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents.”

It was one of the first news reports on a quiet practice that had been going on for 20 years. It revealed that color printers embed in printed documents coded patterns that contain the printer’s serial number, and the date and time the documents were printed. The patterns are made up of dots, less than a millimeter in diameter and a shade of yellow that, when placed on a white background, cannot be detected by the naked eye.

The dots are less than a millimeter in diameter and invisible to the naked eye (Wikimedia Commons)The existence of the hidden dots gained renewed interest this week when they were found embedded in a top-secret report by the US National Security Agency (NSA) that was published by The Intercept on June 5. About an hour after the report was published, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had arrested a suspected leaker. The 25-year-old NSA contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, was charged “with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.”
In an affidavit released by the DOJ, an FBI agent described how Winner had been tracked down. The scanned copy of the document, which The Intercept had given to the government to confirm its authenticity, “appeared to be folded and/or creased,” the agent wrote, “suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.”
When researchers later discovered the tracking dots embedded in the document, many quickly assumed that the NSA had used them to find Winner. However, according to the affidavit, an internal government audit found that only six people had printed out the classified documents. Winner was one of those six people, and the audit found that she had also sent an email to the news outlet from her work computer. An analysis of the dots was therefore probably not necessary to track down Winner, despite several misleading news reports that suggest otherwise. But their presence has nonetheless resurfaced long-standing privacy concerns.
By analyzing the dots in the top-secret document, researchers were able to conclude it came from a printer with a serial number of 29535218, model number 54, and that it was printed on May 9, 2017, at 6:20 a.m., at least according to the printer’s internal clock. In a case where a leaker had covered his or her tracks more carefully, or where the leaked documents had been printed by far more than six people, or perhaps printed on a non-government printer, the dots certainly could have come into play.
Looking into how the embedded codes came to be, we found a secret history that’s been little told. The technology meant to track our paper documents back to us has been hidden in plain sight for more than 30 years.

The 2004 article in PCWorld was based on information provided by Peter Crean, who was a senior research fellow at Xerox at the time. In his first public interview about the practice since talking to the magazine 13 years ago, Crean told Quartz that Xerox hadn’t done much to share information about the dots’ existence.

“We didn’t advertise it much to the people that had [the printers],” said Crean, now retired. “We didn’t not tell them if they asked. The salespeople were told, ‘Don’t lead with it in any sales, but if they ask you about it, you can tell them we have the security feature in there.’”

When color printers were first introduced, he said, governments were worried the devices would be used for all sorts of forgery, particularly counterfeiting money. An early solution came from Japan, where the yellow-dot technology, known as printer steganography, was originally developed as a security measure.

Fuji, which has been in a joint-venture partnership with Xerox since 1962, was the first to implement the codes in printers. Fuji-Xerox manufactures most of Xerox’s printing and copying devices, and has done so for several decades. Amid rampant counterfeiting issues in Japan in the mid-1980s, Crean said, the company began programming color printers to embed the dots.

“They put it on early and we went along with it,” Crean said, “because the machines came with it.”

There are no laws or regulations in the US that force printer manufacturers to include the tracking codes. It became standard practice primarily because some countries would have refused to import the products without some assurance that if the printers were used to counterfeit money, they’d be able to track the owners down. If Xerox hadn’t implemented steganography in its early color printers, the US may have tried to block their import from Japan, Crean said.

In addition to the yellow-dot technology, Xerox implemented another feature around the same time that forced color copiers to shut down if they detected steganography in documents indicating they were currency. In 1994, the US Central Intelligence Agency approached Xerox about using the same technology to stop the unauthorized copying of classified documents, and Crean provided some ideas in a brainstorming session with two agents that year, he said. He wasn’t aware of whether the agency used any of his ideas, but the functionality to detect currency, he said, “was in most of the machines at least through the mid-2000s.”

When Crean talked to PCWorld in 2004, Xerox had been pushing a PR campaign focused on the technology and science behind some of its innovations, including steganography. The company had asked Crean to highlight the tech as a neat security feature the company’s printers included, and to talk about the science behind it. Crean had talked publicly about the codes a few times before, and nothing much had come of it. The company likely assumed the techie readers of PCWorld would get a kick out of the obscure feature.

“Our PR people set it up for me,” said Crean. “When I gave the interview at my desk, our PR person was sitting right across the desk from me, nodding at everything I said.”

The article created an uproar among privacy advocates, who said the practice was a violation of Americans’ constitutional rights. Although the article quoted a Secret Service counterfeiting specialist, who said “the only time any information is gained from these documents is purely in [the case of] a criminal act,” privacy advocates pointed out there were no laws to hold the government to that.

“The possible misuses of this marking technology are frightening,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in a blog post responding to the article. “Individuals using printers to create political pamphlets, organize legal protest activities, or even discuss private medical conditions or sensitive personal topics can be identified by the government with no legal process, no judicial oversight, and no notice to the person spied upon.”

Salespeople at Xerox were told at this point to refer all questions about the dots to Xerox headquarters, Crean said.

A security researcher at the EFF, Seth Schoen, began looking into the dots shortly after the article was published, hoping to figure out how to read the encoded patterns. The organization asked the public to submit samples of their own printed documents, Schoen said, which helped them to compare differences between patterns on many printer models.

“We also went to a number of Kinko’s locations and printed our own samples, which is a great way to get DocuColor samples,” Schoen said, referring to Xerox model they were researching. “We looked at them with scanners and microscopes (and blue-light flashlights).”

How to decode the hidden dot patterns
How to decode the hidden dot patterns (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Eventually, a volunteer working with the EFF noticed that the dots represented a binary code, Schoen said. It allowed them to crack the logic behind them, and to read the information embedded in any document that used yellow-dot steganography. The organization published the results of its work, along with an interactive tool to decode the dots.

The researchers also published a list of all the models they found that embed the same pattern of dots, but Schoen pointed out in a phone interview that we should assume every color printer embeds tracking information in one way or another. He referred to information the EFF obtained in 2005 through a Freedom of Information Act request to the US government.

“Some of the documents that we previously received through FOIA suggested that all major manufacturers of color laser printers entered a secret agreement with governments to ensure that the output of those printers is forensically traceable,” the EFF said on its website.

Indeed, Crean said that after Fuji-Xerox began embedding tracking codes, the practice became ubiquitous.

“Other companies came up with other variants of that scheme that were more complicated, harder to decode. Canon kind of twist theirs around in a spiral,” Crean said, “but everybody was basically putting a small digital set of bits smack dab all over the print.”

Xerox, HP, Canon, and the NSA did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.

Although the code behind the yellow-dot patterns was cracked, there is likely other steganography still in use that has yet to be discovered. In addition to the various implementations Crean mentioned, Schoen said there is at least one newer version that is even more difficult to find in a document.

“What we’ve learned is that there is a second generation of the technology that some of the manufacturers have switched over to,” Schoen said. “We’ve never cracked that or even had a way to detect it.”

 

With GST Single-Function Printers to Cost Less but MFPs to Cost More

Printer market in the country is facing a lot of headwinds due to the digital drive in organizations. The government’s move to revise GST rates has brought down the prices of single-function printers but increased the prices of multifunction printers in the country. Earlier the GST Council had set the GST at 28 % on all kinds of printers. But it revised the rates for single function printers lowering the GST to 18%.

gst

It is believed that the sale of single function printers might go up after this comes in effect. However, it is not so easy to estimate right now, given the fact that the sale of single function printers have been constantly going down for over many years now. However, the new GST regime might further give a blow to multifunction printers. MFPs are the only segment that has gone up. Players such as HP, Canon, Epson, Samsung, Ricoh, Xerox and Panasonic, among others might face headwinds if the prices remain beyond the consumer expectations.

tax

The 16th meeting of Council led by Finance Minister Arun Jiatley concluded on 11th June where rates of 66 items were revised. The Goods and Services Tax will come into effect by 1st July 2017. Most of the items have been listed under four broad tax slab- 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.

Items like camera, printed circuits, speakers and monitors, printers (other than multi function printers), electrical transformer, CCTV, optical fiber are priced at 18% tax under GST. This might increase the sales of single functional printers in the country. Although the multi-functional printers will continue to remain expensive. The printer market in India has grown tremendously in the last few years.

The best printers you can buy for your home

Working from home is becoming increasingly popular in this connected world we live in, but if you start working from home, you may not have access to all the tools that an office-space has to offer. Not only that, but if you have kids in school, or simply need to print every now and then, having a good printer at your disposal can be extremely helpful. Of course, there are a ton of printers out there to choose from, and not all of them are created equal.

Before you decide on a specific model of printer to go for, you should make a few decisions on the type of printer you need. Here are a few key points to consider before you make the decision to pull the trigger on a new printer.

Insider Picks_ 3 4x3 printer

  • Laser or inkjet: There are two main types of printers – laser and inkjet, and they’re actually pretty different. Laser printers are generally more expensive, but the trade-off is that you don’t have to worry about buying ink, and pages are printed a lot quicker. Laser printers need toner, which lasts longer than the ink used by inkjet printers. This type of printer is also best for printing documents and sometimes only prints in black and white, though many laser printers can do color, too. Inkjet printers are cheaper to buy, but ink is expensive. However, if you print photos, this is the printer you want. Inkjet printers are also easier to maintain, so most people will likely prefer them.
  • Do you want a scanner? Many printers these days also come with a scanner, meaning you can combine your printing and scanning needs into one device. Speaking from personal experience, it’s common to use the scanner after signing a document that may have been emailed to you, so it may be a good thing to have in your home office.
  • Double-sided printing: Many printers out there offer the ability to print double-sided documents, so you won’t have to worry about flipping the page over and printing again if you want dual-sided printing. This also helps cut down on the number of pages you print, which is obviously good for the environment.

Some companies also offer some extra features. For example, HP offers an ink subscription service, in which you can pay $2.99 per month and have HP automatically send new ink when it detects that your ink supply is running low.

But what’s the best printer out there? Here are the five best printers you can buy. You should also check out our guides to the best computer mice and the best Bluetooth keyboards.

Although the Brother MFC-J985DW is our top pick, for various reasons laid out in the slides below, you should also consider the HP Envy 5560, the HP LaserJet Pro M252dw, the Canon ImagePrograf PRO-1000, and the Canon Pixma iP8720.