TIME windows 10

Windows 10 Includes This Really Unhelpful Error Message

SKOREA-US-IT-MICROSOFT
JUNG YEON-JE—AFP/Getty Images A woman walks past a billboard for Windows 10, the latest operating system from US software giant Microsoft.

‘Something happened’

Windows 10 launched this week to warm reviews.

The free upgrade for those running Windows 7 and up comes with an easy two-step installation, but that doesn’t things don’t go wrong. Actually, sometimes something happens. And that’s exactly what Microsoft will tell you.

The error message has popped up for a handful of users who took to social media to share the vague and profoundly unhelpful pop-up.

The “something” can actually be fixed pretty easily by updating the language preferences, according to a solution uncovered by a Reddit user.

Here’s how some people reacted.

READ MORE: Watch Microsoft’s unusual Windows 10 ad.

TIME cybersecurity

Hackers Can Change This Sniper Rifle’s Target

Hackers can gain access when the gun's computer is connected to Wi-Fi.

Sniper rifles have gotten pretty fancy these days, but it’s those high-end gadgets that help expertly guide shots that could also be their biggest weakness.

TrackingPoint self-aiming rifles work by using a computer connected to wi-fi, which helps the shooter to more accurately aim and hit its target. However, two security researchers found that the $13,000 rifle can be compromised, allowing a hacker to recalibrate the scope’s calculation so the shots land away from the intended target. A cyber attacker could even disable the gun altogether.

The researchers, married couple Run Sandvik and Michael Auger, plan to present the results at the Black Hat hacker conference in two weeks, but gave Wired magazine a demonstration ahead of time. In the video, you can see the two dial in changes to the scope’s targeting system that sends a bullet straight to their own bullseye instead of the original target.

“You can make it lie constantly to the user so they’ll always miss their shot,” Sandvik told Wired.

TrackingPoint has sold more than a thousand of its rifles since it launched in 2011. Founder John McHale said the company would release a software update to patch the vulnerability.

Read more at Wired.com.

TIME Android

Stagefright: Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Android Megabug

The Latest Mobile Apps At The App World Multi-Platform Developer Show
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A logo for Google Inc.'s Android operating system is displayed on an advertising sign during the Apps World Multi-Platform Developer Show in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Retail sales of Internet-connected wearable devices, including watches and eyeglasses, will reach $19 billion by 2018, compared with $1.4 billion this year, Juniper Research said in an Oct. 15 report. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here's a friendly Q&A to help you understand what happened, why it is a problem that still needs fixing, and what you can do about it.

Stagefright? What? Huh? That’s what you’ve been asking yourself ever since the Internet erupted yesterday over the announcement of a big computer bug in Google’s Android operating system.

In fact, you might still be wondering: Is my phone safe? Wait, the Internet erupted? Did it actually explode? (Is that even possible?)

Thankfully, no. I mean maybe, but as long as you’re still able to read this then I think we’re doing okay. Anyway, for those who still have questions about all the hullabaloo, Fortune has drafted a friendly Q&A to help you understand what happened, and why it is a problem that still needs fixing.

What is stage fright?

Stage fright is the nervous sensation a presenter feels before appearing publicly. (Say, for example, at a major security conference next month.)

Stagefright, on the other hand, is the nickname of a terrible Android flaw found in the open source code of Google’s Android operating system. The vulnerability, disclosed on Monday, may be the worst one to date. It puts 95% of Android devices—950 million gadgets—at risk of being hacked.

Where does the name come from?

“Stagefright” is the name of the media library—a portion of Android’s open source code—in which the bugs were found. It’s obviously a great bug name, too.

No lie. What does that media library do?

Stagefright—the library, not the bug—helps phones unpack multimedia messages. It enables Android phones to interpret MMS content (multimedia message service content), which can contain videos, photos, audio, text, as opposed to, say, SMS content (short message service content), which can contain only 160 characters. The bugs are in that library.

Wait, I thought you said Stagefright is a bug, not bugs?

Okay, okay. So Stagefright is a collection of bugs, if you want to be technical. Seven to be exact. If you want to get real technical, their designations are:

  • CVE-2015-1538,
  • CVE-2015-1539,
  • CVE-2015-3824,
  • CVE-2015-3826,
  • CVE-2015-3827,
  • CVE-2015-3828, and
  • CVE-2015-3829

But for our purposes, I’ll just refer to them collectively as Stagefright. A singular bug set; one vulnerability.

Fine, that seems easier. Why should I care about it?

Well, if you’re an Android user then your device is probably vulnerable.

Is that bad?

That means an attacker can infect your device simply by sending you a malicious MMS message. (Remember that acronym? Multimedia message service.) In fact, a victim doesn’t even have to open a booby-trapped message for the attack to spring. Once the message received, your phone is toast.

Er…that doesn’t sound good.

Right. Once inside, an attacker can access your phone’s data, photos, camera, microphone. What’s worse is that a clever baddie can delete the booby-trapped message from your phone before you even realize that your device has been compromised. So basically, yeah it’s bad.

That does sound bad.

Yup. And it gets worse! Imagine this scenario: Someone attacks your phone, steals your contact list, automatically targets those devices—rinse, repeat. Now everyone’s infected.

That’s what we like to call a computer worm.

How long has this been the case?

About five years.

What?? You mean my phone has been open to attack this whole time???

Yes.

Surely, Google must have patched it by now!

You’re right! Google patched the bugs right away. The company learned about one set of vulnerabilities in April and another set in May. The person who discovered the problems—Joshua Drake, a researcher at the mobile security company Zimperium zLabs—says he provided patches, and Google adopted them within two days. (The company reportedly paid him $1,337 for his work.)

Woohoo! So I’m safe?

Nope. The problem isn’t fixed.

What? Huh? Why?

That’s because Google’s Android ecosystem relies on its partnering phone-makers to push out software upgrades. That means Samsung, HTC, LG, Lenovo, Motorola, Sony, among others, are responsible for delivering the patches to customers.

Have they done so yet?

CyanogenMod, Mozilla, and Silent Circle’s Blackphone have.

I don’t use those…

Then you’ll have to wait. The other companies have issued statements that basically say, “We’re working on it.” You can read them here.

Is there a way to test whether I’m vulnerable?

If you’re using a phone that runs on Android version 2.2 or above, you may as well assume you’re at risk. The most vulnerable phones predate Jelly Bean (version 4.1), and that accounts for about 11% of Android phones on the market.

(We’ll add a link to a test when one comes to our attention but, unfortunately, there’s nothing available yet—at least that we know of. Though it would be pretty cool if someone came up with one. Nudge nudge, wink wink.)

Why are post-Ice Cream Android phones better off?

As Google Android’s lead security engineer explains here, that’s about the time that Google put in place some strong exploit mitigation technologies, like one called Address Space Layout Randomization. “This technology makes it more difficult for an attacker to guess the location of code, which is required for them to build a successful exploit,” Adrian Ludwig writes. He goes on: “(For the layperson — ASLR makes writing an exploit like trying to get across a foreign city without access to Google Maps, any previous knowledge of the city, any knowledge of local landmarks, or even the local language. Depending on what city you are in and where you’re trying to go, it might be possible but it’s certainly much more difficult.)”

You can find a list of similar security technologies implemented since Ice Cream (version 4.0) here.

So I get that I should pressure my phone-maker to push out the fixes. What about my wireless carrier?

Well, if your wireless carrier was real cool, it could create a signature for Stagefright-based attacks, and block those threats on its network. Fiat Chrysler recently worked with Sprint to make its cars much less hackable that way. Your carrier could also help make sure the fix works for older versions of Android, too, rather than just making sure the latest version is protected. The security researcher Nicholas Weaver recently made this point on Twitter.

He suggested something similar for Google, too.

Can I do anything else to be safer?

First, ask your device manufacturer for an update: When will a patch be available and will you be covered? You might also consider changing the settings on your Android apps that use MMS, like Messaging and Hangouts. Un-click “automatically retrieve MMS messages.” In the meantime, consider using Snapchat or WhatsApp to swap clips, GIFs, and whatnot.

Other than that, keep your phone number private, I guess? Drake, the guy who found the flaw, plans to present more details at the Black Hat conference next month.

Okay, thanks for the tips. If I have any other questions, can I call you?

No, sorry. My phone number is private information.

Just testing you!

Ah I see what you did there, you jokester!

TIME windows 10

Microsoft Out-hypes Itself With a Windows 10 Music Video

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TOBIAS SCHWARZ—AFP/Getty Images A man shows Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system at the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover.

The video opts for extreme simplicity

The Windows 10 hype machine has kicked into overdrive.

In celebration of the software update — which introduces a retooled interface, more built-in apps, and a Siri-like Cortana assistant — Microsoft has released a music video on YouTube.

The video mentions none of the new software’s features, instead opting for extreme simplicity.

A Windows logo, created by conceptual visual artist GMUNK, shimmers for one-and-a-half minutes set to music from electronic duo Odesza. The video is capped off with a blue screen that instructs viewers to “do great things.” That is, apparently, what users of Microsoft 10 can do once they get their hands on the update.

The new update has already begun downloading on some computers in preparation for its release Tuesday evening, at 9 p.m. PT and midnight ET. Windows 7 and Windows 8 users qualify for a free download of the update.

TIME Apple

7 Radical New Features Coming to Your Mac in 2015

Apple Debuts New Watch
Stephen Lam—Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook stands in front of an MacBook on display after an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

These could totally change the way you work

For early adopters, beta software releases can be enticing, if a bit dangerous — there’s no telling what installing a beta might do to your computer (backup first!). As a beta tester for OS X Yosemite, an operating system so popular with Mac users that it appeared on more than half the world’s Apple computers just four months after launch, I’m not totally sold on the follow up dubbed El Capitan. Still, these new features should be more polished when the OS is ready for a full release later this year. Here’s a closer look at what you’ll find:

Split Screen Apps

To me, window positioning and re-sizing has always been a disappointment on Macs. The problem is so bad I’ve had to download third-party apps like Divvy and Stay to make my computer work the way I want it to. Now Apple is addressing that problem by allowing split screen apps. It’s clearly a play towards making the Mac seem more like an iPad (with its new split screen mode in iOS 9) and the iPad more like a Mac.

Email Adjustments

With every new Mac OS release, Apple seems to add new features to its Mail app. Personally, I never feel that the program is lacking features. Instead, I’d really like to see Apple make back-end stability improvements to the program’s overall performance and its smart mailbox features. But those enhancements don’t razzle-dazzle. Apple has announced some new full-screen capabilities that, like the split screen apps, make Mail perform more like an iPad. Whether you’re dragging-and-dropping a file into a new email composition, or have several messages open at once, I can’t imagine using Mail in the full-screen mode — not even on an 11-inch Macbook Air.

Mission Control

With El Capitan, Apple promises more organization with Mission Control, its desktop space and window organization app. As someone who runs Mac OS on two displays, I’m a big Mission Control user, though I never understood why it got its own designation as an app, and not a relegation as a feature. Even though it’s relatively simple to use, it tends to be something loved by power users and misunderstood by casual ones.

Once you made the transition from calling it “Spaces” (under Mavericks, Yosemite’s predecessor) Yosemite’s reimagining of this fast-switching feature worked great. You could see all your windows stacked by application with the app’s icon clearly displayed on top. El Capitan removes that bold icon, making it harder to quickly find the program you’re looking for. It feels like a change made for the sake of optics, not uses.

And here’s the stuff I already know I love:

Cursor Discovery

What’s the first thing you do when you sit down at your computer? Apple knows: it’s wiggling your cursor about so you can find that puny little pointer. In El Capitan, when you shake your finger on the touchpad, the cursor temporarily swells up, making it easier to see so you can get down to business.

Enhanced Notes

Like in the iOS 9 beta, Apple’s default Notes app gets beefed up, turning into more of a digital scratchpad where you can save everything from webpages and checklists to images and videos. As a user who’s all-in on Evernote, this feature doesn’t appeal to me personally, but it’s a great addition for casual Apple users, especially given how it syncs across the company’s ecosystem using iCloud.

Fixing Up Safari

Whenever Apple makes improvements to Safari, my ears perk up. Since I’m constantly researching online, I push Apple’s default web browser to its limits. As a result, I’d always welcome better memory handling (Yosemite improved the browser by leaps and bounds), but Apple hasn’t made such boasts in El Capitan’s build.

Instead, the new browser is currently touting three new tools that, while enticing, aren’t quite enough to make me upgrade yet. The first is Pinned Sites, a way to keep your favorite webpages open and active in the background without taking up much screen real estate. The second is AirPlay Sharing, which lets users share web videos via Apple’s streaming protocol without having to show off their entire screen. And the third is Tab Muting, which is exactly what it sounds like (or doesn’t sound like, actually). With as many tabs as I have open (current count: 18), it’s annoying to find and silence the one playing a loud, auto-playing ad.

Casting A Wider Spotlight

I have a love/hate relationship with Spotlight: I love that it exists, and I hate that it doesn’t work properly for me. (To test my theory, I just opened it and typed in “resume,” and it returned “System Preferences” as the main result.) So Apple’s newest initiative to use it as a search engine for everything is equally exciting and disheartening. How can it possibly find movie times on the web if it can’t even locate a document on my computer?

But the thing I’m truly hopeful for about El Capitan’s Spotlight is asking it to run queries in my own words. For instance, I could type in “documents I worked on last week” and — in theory — that’s what I’ll get. Or I could get a photo of an ice cream cone riding a bicycle, because in reality those are the kind of results Spotlight has returned to me in the past. But still, imagine the potential.

And in the end, that’s what beta releases are all about: the potential greatness of the next software release. Will El Capitan deliver? We’ll have to wait and see until the beta is over and the full release is out.

TIME Apple

Apple’s New Software Has Hidden Clues About Its Next Product

The iMac is due for a big upgrade

Apple may be developing a 4K iMac and other interesting new products, according to references in the code of its latest operating system. The beta for OS X El Capitan mentions within its code support for a 4096 x 2304 resolution display, also known as 4K. 9to5Mac, which sniffed out the reference, speculates that the display could be rolled out for Apple’s 21.5-inch iMac later this year. Right now, Apple has a 5K display for its $2,000 27-inch Mac, but the smaller desktop computer hasn’t yet been given a super-high-resolution screen.

Other bits of code in El Capitan appear to indicate that Apple is working on a new Bluetooth remote control that includes a Multi-Touch trackpad and audio support. Earlier reports have mentioned that a revamped remote control with a touchpad is expected to be rolled out with a revamped version of Apple TV later this year.

TIME Software

Desktop Showdown: Windows 10 vs. Mac OS X El Capitan

We pit the best features of the two upcoming desktop operating systems against each other

Just when you were getting used to your computer the way it is, the geniuses behind Windows and Mac OS are ready to change it again. But don’t fret — change is good, at least in these cases.

The new Mac OS X build, named “El Capitan” after the iconic Yosemite National Park rock formation, will arrive this fall and is full of performance and user interface updates. Meanwhile, Windows 10, available July 29, has a slew of features, new and old, that will make PCs work much better than ever before.

If you’re basing a computer purchasing decision on these operating systems, the comparison below will help you pick the best system for your needs.

Improved intelligence

Cortana, Microsoft’s voice assistant, plays a key role in Windows 10. It gradually learns your preferences, setting reminders and delivering them at the right time and on the best device. Cortana operates independent of your device because she’s cloud-based, and like any good assistant, she also maintains a notebook where she can keep track of your interests, favorite places, and even quiet hours when you don’t want her bugging you.

You’d expect El Capitan to counter with some Siri magic of its own, but Apple continues to hold its voice assistant out of its desktop operating system, leaving it only on its handheld devices instead. Still, Apple has improved the Mac desktop’s Spotlight search feature, which can now find all sorts of information, like weather, stocks, and sports scores — in addition to your files and apps. Apple also added a natural language search feature to Spotlight, which means you can ask it for “documents I worked on last June,” and it will pull together exactly what you want.

Advantage: Microsoft. No Siri? Then there’s no way Apple wins here.

Adding to apps

Apple pushed El Capitan’s intelligence beyond the operating system and into its apps, applying natural language search to the Mail app, for instance, so users can search for messages using strings such as “emails I ignored from Phil.” This elevates Mac OS X from smart to truly intelligent, and it will be interesting to see which other apps get a similar brain transplant. Mail also gets full screen perks and swipe-based gestures to make it feel more like the iOS email app, but there’s still big differences between the two.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is tearing down the wall between desktop and mobile, not just with its convertible Surface tablet but also in the new Windows Store, the one place to buy apps for every Windows 10 device, whether PC, tablet, or smartphone. Windows 10 will also optimize apps to look and work better, regardless of your device, pulling and reconfiguring programs to fill your screen no matter its size.

Advantage: Draw. Apple’s app updates are nice, but not revolutionary, while it’s too early to know how successful Windows Store apps will be.

Better browsers

While web browsers are technically apps, they go above and beyond the standard software and are hugely important to these operating systems. Apple’s Safari browser has been around for years, and has already seen a lot of refinements. Still, it could use some work (like improved memory management). But Apple’s heart was in the right place when it introduced a tiny button that can mute music or videos playing in some buried tab, any number of windows deep. And speaking of tabs, Safari’s new Pinned Tabs feature lets users keep some go-to windows open in the background without taking up much screen real estate. Though there’s no guarantee that they won’t gobble up your RAM.

On the other hand, the new Microsoft Edge browser, which takes center stage from Internet Explorer, is a bundle of question marks. In 2015, you’d expect it to emerge working free and smooth. Reviews of the beta version bear that out, but we won’t really know until everyone is using it. Still, there’s a lot to like, with users getting the ability to write or type notes directly on webpages and Cortana’s smarts being woven into the app’s fabric. But Microsoft is also touting features like a save-it-for-later reading list, which is something that Safari has had for years, so it’s difficult to see Edge as anything but a catch-up act.

Advantage: Apple — though most users would probably rather give this round to Chrome.

The little things

In the eyes of many Windows users, Microsoft could have just slapped a Start menu on Windows 8.1 and it would’ve won back the hearts of the masses. Of course it actually did that — the once-discarded launcher button will return in Windows 10 — but Microsoft also upped the ante by improving the system’s already great window management system. Now Windows 10 lets users snap as many as four apps into place on a screen, or create more virtual desktops for even more groupings.

And in this instance, it’s Apple that chasing the leader by announcing El Capitan can accommodate two apps split on a full screen. Apple has given users multiple desktops for years already, but its new side-by-side window-management feature is just a nuanced convenience. It shouldn’t be bragging about a feature that’s this long overdue.

Still, it’s the little things that make El Capitan an upgrade to look forward to. For instance, when users wiggle the mouse or touchpad to find the cursor, the arrow will temporarily swell up to be more visible. Another upgrade is that Mac users will be able to use AirPlay to sling web videos from Safari to an Apple TV without having to share their whole display. And then there’s the “time to leave” feature that takes into account travel time for your appointments, and tells users when they should put down the mouse and grab the car keys.

Advantage: Apple. Windows bringing back the Start button is great, but it’s really just them fixing a near-fatal error. Meanwhile, Apple’s added features may literally be window-dressing, but at least they’re new.

Gaming and graphics

Apple was effusive in its praise for El Capitan’s improved performance, citing 1.4-times faster app launching, 2-times faster app switching, and even 4-times faster PDF opening. But the biggest gains came at the chip and code level, where the company introduced Metal to its desktop machine. A way to crunch code faster, Metal was released on iOS last year and now makes its way to Apple’s computers. The technology is said to accelerate graphics with a 50% increase in rendering performance and a 40% improvement in rendering efficiency. Ideal for helping graphics-intensive games look stunning, Metal is also positioned to add brawn to pro-level software. For instance, Adobe was able to add improvements to Illustrator that will have designers in love with El Capitan.

But it will take more than Metal to get Apple competitive with Microsoft on the gaming front — especially since there are plans afoot to let Xbox users stream their games to other Windows 10 devices, turning laptops, tablets, and phones into gaming rigs. That’s a huge move, and if it works well, it will make El Capitan look like a marinero when it comes to games.

Advantage: Xbox. Er, I mean Microsoft.

Read next: This Is Apple Music’s 1 Huge Advantage Over Spotify

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Microsoft

Microsoft Just Confirmed the Real Price of Windows 10

It'll be free—sort of

Microsoft has begun taking reservations for its next major operating system release, Windows 10. The Redmond, Washington-based software giant said the overhauled system will become available July 29.

Windows 10 will be available as a free download for a year after its initial release for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8. Users who don’t qualify for the free update will be able to purchase the software.

On June 1, Microsoft told CNET that Windows 10 will be priced similarly to its predecessor. That means prices will run from $110 for the Windows 10 Home package to $199 for Windows 10 Pro. A Windows 10 Pro Pack will let users upgrade from Home to Pro for $99.

MORE Nintendo Just Revealed a Ton of New Games

Windows 10’s new features include Cortana, a digital personal assistant akin to Apple’s Siri or Google Now, a redesigned Start Menu, and all-new Internet browser.

The company has said Windows 7 and Windows 8 users can reserve an upgrade from a notification icon in their task bar. Windows 10 files will be downloaded automatically by July 29th.

Read next: 5 Windows 10 Features We Can’t Wait to Use

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Microsoft

Microsoft Announces Windows 10 Release Date

It’s coming very soon

Microsoft will launch Windows 10 on July 29th. The technology giant had previously promised to release the next version of its computer operating system sometime this summer. That date represents aggressive timing for a company that has, at times, had difficult launches for major products. The Redmond, Washington-based company has been releasing increasingly polished preview builds of the software over the past few months.

Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. To publicize that, the company is making a small notification appear in users’ task bars. Clicking on the notification, pops up a slide show extolling the benefits of Windows 10. Some of the new features include: the return of the Start menu, an all-new Internet browser, and Cortana, a digital personal assistant making to Google Now or Apple’s Siri.

From Microsoft’s release:

With Windows 10, we start delivering on our vision of more personal computing, defined by trust in how we protect and respect your personal information, mobility of the experience across your devices, and natural interactions with your Windows devices, including speech, touch, ink, and holograms. We designed Windows 10 to run our broadest device family ever, including Windows PCs, Windows tablets, Windows phones, Windows for the Internet of Things, Microsoft Surface Hub, Xbox One and Microsoft HoloLens—all working together

TIME Interview

Photo Expert: ‘A Manipulated Image Is Not Necessarily a Lie’

tungstene-north-korea-2
Korean Central News Agency (Filters: eXo maKina) In this photograph of North Korean troops engaging in a trianing exercise, eXo maKina was able to detect that parts of the image had been duplicated and enhanced.

"We need rules that are understandable and practical for photographers, for agencies, and everyone interested in the image in general."

In the age of digital photography, it’s become increasingly easy to modify, process or manipulate the content of an image, and increasingly harder to sort truth from fiction.

In 2009, under the impulsion of the French Ministry of Defense, the computer science technologies company eXo maKina developed Tungstene, a program that can reveal changes made to a digital file. Just a few weeks after World Press Photo, the world’s leading photojournalism competition, was forced to disqualify 20% of final entries because of excessive manipulation, Roger Cozien, the man behind Tungstene, discusses the relevance of truth in photography in an interview first published in French in OAI13 and republished here for the first time in English.

Nathalie Hof: What is Tungstène, and why did you develop it?

Roger Cozien: First of all, there are a few elements I would like to clarify: within the company eXo maKina, we never use the term “editing”. This word means nothing and everything at the same time. Everybody uses it and in fact, when using Tungstène, this is not what we expect to detect. We talk about “alteration” and “manipulation”. And when we notice an underlying intention to mislead, we talk about “falsification” or “intrusion”. We prefer those terms to straightaway specify that we are not at all in the aesthetic field.

Getting back to your question, we were asked to work on Tungstène by the French Ministry of Defense in 2009 in order to evaluate the photographs available and circulating without restriction on the Internet. The Ministry was interested in the international press, particularly the online one, but also in the social networks and all types of blogs. These are uncontrolled information and communication media, especially when they come from war zones where propaganda can be very strong. It is in this context that the Ministry of Defense needed a verification tool.

Nathalie Hof: Who uses Tungstène today?

Roger Cozien: The French Ministry of Defense, the French Ministry of Interior, the French justice, the Agence France-Presse (AFP), and the Moroccan royal police force. These organizations already bought the software. But I very often conduct analysis on demand, especially for judiciary cases. In these situations, I am the one operating the software.

Nathalie Hof: How does it work?

Roger Cozien: There is hardly any photographic aspect: we are in the digital field. We do not deal with photography, but with information from mathematical, physical and computer sciences perspectives. We use a computer file inside which there is a digital photograph. To sum up, we could say it is mathematics. The software makes calculations thanks to filters divided in several families. Each family of filters gives specific information about the file. These filters aim at detecting anomalies. They give you any and all specific and particular information which can be found in the photograph file. And these particularities, called “singularities”, are sometimes only accidental: this is because the image was not well re-saved or that the camera had specific features, for example.

The software in itself is neutral: it does not know what is an alteration or a manipulation. So, when it notices an error, the operator needs to consider whether it is an image manipulation, or just an accident. In order to do so, he tries to confirm the image by checking whether several filters notice it. This is what we call filters convergence. This means in general that the action taken was deeper and more important than simple development.

Nathalie Hof: Can media organizations use Tungstène?

Roger Cozien: It is mainly used by the AFP. As an agency, it receives images coming from many different sources: their own photographers, other agencies worldwide, freelance photographers, as well as more and more amateurs. Before circulating an image which can be false, the AFP wants to verify its authenticity. All images are not verified: it depends on what is at stake and/or if they have a doubt. [We’re talking about] quite spectacular photos or photos coming from non-democratic countries. It also happens that the rest of the press – the distributors – contacts us to check images linked to very important events on a case-by-case basis. The French weekly magazine Nouvel Observateur, for example, called us in 2011 when Osama Bin Laden was killed by the American military.

tungstene-north-korea
Korean Central News Agency (Filters: eXo maKina)In this photo of King Jong-un, eXo maKina was able to detect that the North Korean generals’ medals were enhanced in post-processing.

Nathalie Hof: Are there a lot of altered images published in the press?

Roger Cozien: A significant number indeed. With different levels of alteration, however. On some of them, the manipulation is very light. Considering whether an image was altered means entering into semiotic. In semiotics, we consider that there is no neutral image. I hear many people saying that photography has to be neutral. But it is not true, it does not make any sense! All photographs carry a message and are the reflection of a point of view, if only through the framing.

There is no guide or criteria saying what is acceptable and what is not. Every agency, every newspaper has its own criteria. I have followed the debates regarding image manipulation and staging set off by the World Press Photo this year. The problem with the World Press is that it applies rules which are not often distributed in advance and are not clear. The point is: what are the rules? At what point can we say that an image was manipulated or not? Did they have themselves an in-depth discussion about what was acceptable and what was not? I have the impression that the people behind the World Press Photo and at festivals such as Visa pour l’Image completely forget these semiotic aspects and are only focusing on the photographic aspects. So, they generally write nonsense.

We are working on the subject with a specialist in semiotics, and we are planning to publish a book soon. We try to explain that we need rules that are understandable and practical for photographers, for agencies, and everyone interested in the image in general. And we need to have the tools to verify that these rules are applied, otherwise, it is absolutely useless.

We are all mistaken in considering that photography is the witness of reality. It’s wrong. Photography is a way for the photographer to express himself. The question is not: “What does the photograph show?” but: “What did the photographer mean?” Take a photographer coming back from Nepal. His speech will be very emphasized: “I was in Nepal, it was dreadful, unbelievable, horrifying!” Someone writing a press release using those terms will not be told: “Sir, you said it was dreadful but it was not, it was only tragic.” We never have this type of reflection. We never blame a journalist or a witness for using an inappropriate word. However, a photographer saying: “I saw a fire. My photograph was not representative enough of what I saw, so I darkened the smoke to give it a more terrible effect.” Why would this photographer be more blameworthy than someone who used some words to report an event? When the photographer modifies his photograph to show us, who were not there, the extent of what he saw and which was not depicted in his photo, is his action reprehensible, blameworthy? Is it legitimate?

Nathalie Hof: As it happens, if a photographer saw an incredible event, and wanted to bring forth that effect by modifying his photograph, doesn’t he highlight more his feelings than the information in itself?

Roger Cozien: It is an illusion, a semiotic heresy, and it does not make sense to think that the information contained in a picture is neutral, not at all. The degree zero of interpretation does not exist. Therefore, there is no degree zero of photography. A photograph is only a point of view.

I am not talking here of photographs that have been staged and/or modified for propaganda purposes, but of those made by a professional photographer with a certain level of experience and ethics. I find it easy to hand out good points and bad points and to play the role of judges when rules are not specific, and when the same people playing the role of judges did not have the necessary reflection on that matter.

Otherwise, one could say the photographer is useless! We may as well use automatic cameras, then! Because, if the photographer is not allowed to do anything, if he has no point of view to express, we could very well send robots, drones and surveillance cameras, and everything will look the same! On the contrary, if we reckon there is a need of a photographer, we have to accept that he expresses his point of view in his photographs. But he shall not lie either.
The software does not see all of this. It analyzes everything there is to say about the photo, and then, we make the decision. But when we use Tungstène, we take into account all these considerations, and we think about what the photographer meant before saying that a photograph is falsified.

Nathalie Hof: The line between what is acceptable and what is not seems to be quite blurred. Renderings realized in post-production, which could be detected on Tungstène, can also be made when the photograph is taken, for example.

Roger Cozien: Imagine a photographer who takes his photo in RAW format. With development software, he balances the whites, the colors, and he enhances a bit the saturation on the image. In short, very simple things. At what point does it become alteration, then?

We have the tendency to say: Those are our criteria that if there was to be a limit, it would be as such: we shift from development to alteration from the moment information is destroyed, as compared to the mathematic information contained in the file at the time of the shot. For example, when there is an electric cable or a board somewhere on the image, which I am not satisfied with and which I then remove. Or when I would have liked this board to be redder and that I make it so.

Take another situation. The photographer develops his photo, re-saves it under a JPEG format, and then sends it to the agency. Depending on its editorial needs, the agency will adjust the balance of the whites, colors and contrasts very lightly, and without modifying the image. But afterwards, the image will be bought by a newspaper, a media, a website. The problem is that the photographer – the sole witness of what he captured – is very rapidly out of the process. The process is very long, and at each step, everybody can intervene without asking the photographer’s opinion. As soon as he sends his file, it does not belong to him anymore. And the last website using his photograph can modify it, without the photographer ever knowing about it.

Nathalie Hof: Are there limits to the use of Tungstène to detect the manipulation of images?

Roger Cozien: Yes, of course. The software is a tool. Like all tools, it has its limits. That is why we are continuously working on it. We are now using the sixth version, but we are preparing the seventh. We are adding new filters as we go along, and we adapt the old ones to the trends in manipulation that we see on the Internet or in the press. A few years ago, it was cloning, for example, which is the fact of duplicating objects. Now, it has almost completely disappeared. Also, our approach to video is not satisfying. As it happens, we just asked for funding at the European level to research manipulations on video.

This interview was first published, in French, by the leading photography online magazine OAI13.

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