TIME Gadgets

Oculus Just Bought 2 Amazing Companies to Complete Its Virtual Reality Vision

An attendee wears an Oculus Rift HD virtual reality head-mounted display at the 2014 International CES, January 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Including a company that makes hand-tracking tech

Virtual reality headset company Oculus VR announced Dec. 11 two acquisitions that should help the company move towards a commercial launch: Nimble VR, which makes hand-tracking technology, and 13th Lab, a 3D modeling firm.

In practical terms, Nimble VR could help add something to virtual reality (VR) that’s been missing from most experiences so far: Your hands, which are surprisingly difficult to render realistically in VR. 13th Lab, meanwhile, could help Oculus build virtual reality experiences based on real-world environments, “like visiting a one-to-one 3D model of the pyramids in Egypt or the Roman Colosseum,” as Oculus’ blog post puts it.

Oculus’ two new acquisitions come as the company comes ever closer to a commercial launch of its Rift headset. While Oculus hasn’t officially announced a release date, many in the virtual reality community believe its first consumer device will hit shelves sometime in 2015.

Oculus has sold two headsets so far, the DK1 and DK2, though both are aimed at developers and early adopters rather than a mass consumer audience. The company has for several months been offering demos of its newest virtual reality headset, the Crescent Bay prototype, which offers a vastly improved experience over its previous offerings.

 

TIME Web

Inventor of Internet Tells Putin Web Is ‘Not a CIA Creation’

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Is Awarded Freedom Of The City Of London
Sir Tim Berners-Lee inventor of the World Wide Web arrives at Guildhall to receive an Honorary Freedom of the City of London award on September 24, 2014 in London, England. Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

Tim Berners-Lee says the Internet should be seen as a human right

The inventor of the world wide web refuted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the Internet is a “CIA project,” Reuters reports. The statement comes eight months after Putin’s comment, which made some worry that he might restrict Internet access in Russia.

Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the Internet in 1989, says the project did receive U.S. government funding, but was primarily built and popularized in the academic sphere as universities worked to get their campuses online.

Berners-Lee went on to defend the Internet against claims that interconnectivity is allowing the spread of militant Islamism through the distribution of videos like those depicting beheadings of journalists. “Like all powerful tools,” he said, “it can be used for good and evil.”

He continued: “It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right. That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”

 

[Reuters]

TIME Social Media

Sorry, Haters: Facebook Won’t Add a ‘Dislike’ Button

177462051
Big_Ryan—Getty Images

But it may add something similar under a different name

Bad news, Internet trolls: Mark Zuckerberg said during a Q&A event on Thursday that Facebook considered adding a “dislike” button, but decided it would be too negative. Instead, the company is looking for a different button that would express a sentiment similar to “dislike,” but not encourage users to effectively vote against posts that they don’t enjoy.

“We need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad,” Zuckerberg said in Menlo Park, California.

Such a button might make sense when a friend announces a death or shares a headline about social injustice, but wouldn’t inspire you to bully your friends for posting too many status updates or baby photos. Best possible outcome? No more people simply writing “Dislike” in the comments.

[Irish Times]

TIME Smartphones

9 Steps to Make Your Smartphone Totally Hacker-Proof

smartphone
Getty Images

Don't use public Wi-Fi networks that aren't password protected, for instance

If you use an iPhone, your days of lording its security features over Android users are numbered.

When it comes to the seemingly endless head-to-head showdowns between the two operating systems used by 94% of Americans, Android’s major selling point is also its Achilles heel. Its customizability means Android users can download apps from anywhere, increasing the risk of infection via malware that can skim sensitive info, send spam messages, or freeze the phone until the owner coughs up a ransom.

Spyware is still far more prevalent for Android devices than iPhones due to Apple’s tight vetting of apps before they make it onto the App Store. Android’s greater market share has a lot to do with it, too, as cyber-criminals can attack more Android phones with a single infusion of malicious code.

But a recently discovered piece of malware called WireLurker attacked iOS devices through a compromised computer, indicating that not only are malware creators increasingly focusing on mobile, but that Apple may soon represent as good a piece of game as Android.

What about Windows Phone and BlackBerry, which make up just 5.9% of US smartphone users combined? “These haven’t attracted the same kind of attention from malware authors that Android has,” says Jeremy Linden, Senior Security Product Manager at Lookout security firm.

However, as our smartphones become our go-to devices for everything from shopping to business, it’s likely that the tiny computer in your hand – no matter which operating system it runs – will increasingly become a target for cybercriminals.

Here are nine things you can do to ensure the security of your device now:

1. Log out after banking and shopping

Using online banking on your smartphone browser should be as safe as using it with a desktop browser, assuming the bank implements the appropriate security measures, says Linden.

Just make sure you log out when you’re done. Signing out from your account prevents cyber-offenders from viewing your personal financial data if your smartphone is hacked. The same goes for shopping sites, where your credit card info may be visible to anyone snooping on the transaction.

Or use your bank’s official app. “Banking apps are set up to be encrypted and protect your information even if the network you’re using has been compromised,” Linden says. Ensure you’ve downloaded the real app and not a malicious copy. Earlier this year, Lookout found a clone of the app for Israel-based Mizrahi Bank, designed to steal customers’ login credentials.

2. Only use public Wi-Fi hotspots that require passwords

Use public Wi-Fi only on secure networks requiring a password to access, ideally only from providers you trust such as the coffee shop you’re at, a city’s official Wi-Fi or a telecommunications operator. Unsecured networks allow hackers to view all web traffic over the network, including passwords and even the contents of unencrypted email (that is, most people’s email).

If you’re planning to connect to public Wi-Fi a lot — for example, while traveling abroad — use an encryption app such as Freedome (Android or iOS) that can secure your connection to any Wi-Fi network so that your data is unreadable. The app also blocks tracking while you’re surfing the web.

3. Set a password on your lock screen

The humble password can prevent an even more insidious crime: allowing someone you know to install spyware onto your device.

Last year, Lookout found that 0.24% of the Android phones it scanned in the United States included spyware designed to target a specific person. That’s tens of thousands of people whose calls, messages and photos were being monitored by someone close enough to access their phones.

No matter what type of smartphone you use, a good password is also your first line of defense against the most basic security issue: losing your phone. As long as you don’t pick an easily guessed combo like 1111, a password can hold off a would-be thief long enough for you to locate and remote-erase your device via the Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone or Windows Phone sites. (BlackBerry users need to have previously downloaded the BlackBerry Protect app, unless the device uses the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.)

4. Check permissions requested by new apps

According to Lookout, adware is the most common security risk with apps. While ads help app makers turn revenue, some contain adware that may collect personal details or usage habits without your consent, send messages with links to buy fake products or force your device to send premium-rate SMS text messages.

Before downloading an app, read through what permissions it requests from you. If a Flappy Bird clone wants access to your contacts and call history, for example, it’s probably best to cancel that download.

If you suspect you’ve already downloaded adware (based on symptoms such as a deluge of pop-up ads or in-app messages asking you to click on a link), uninstall the app that is delivering the aggressive advertising.

5. Get a security app

If you don’t know which app is the culprit or if you simply want to check your phone’s bill of health, a free security app such as Lookout (Android or iOS) or Avast Free Mobile Security (Android or iOS) can scan the apps on your phone for malware including adware, spyware and viruses. If malware is detected, the security app will remove it.

These apps can also locate your device if you lose it, sound an alarm or message it in case someone has found it, back up your contacts online and remote-erase everything if all hope of getting your phone back is lost.

Check out our comparison of free and paid security apps for more information.

6. Review your download habits

“Non-jailbroken iOS devices are less likely to download malware,” says Linden. (The same goes for Windows and BlackBerry phones.) But if you’ve performed tech surgery to rid your iPhone of its limitations or if you use an Android phone, Linden recommends avoiding downloads from third-party app stores, where malware is much more prevalent. Install a security app that can alert you to suspected malware.

Even if apps are on the official app market, only download from trusted developers, and check the reviews for complaints.

7. Disable app downloads from unknown sources (Android only)

Lookout recently identified a piece of malware called NotCompatible.C that allows your phone to be used without your permission. For example, ticket scalpers could use the malware to route bulk ticket purchases through a group of infected phones, thus hiding their identity and location.

NotCompatible is downloaded secretly onto Android phones from sites harboring it; links to such sites have been found in phishing emails. To avoid similar sneaky malware downloads, disable app downloads from unknown sources, found in the Settings/Security menu.

In general, it’s best to avoid clicking on links in emails from unknown senders or, according to Lookout, clicking on shortened URLs like bit.ly, since you can’t see the domain it leads to.

8. Don’t grant apps administrator access (Android only)

Back in July, an intimidating type of Android malware made the rounds. The so-called FBI ransomware froze infected phones, popping up a message that the FBI had locked the phone because the owner had violated federal law by visiting illegal sites including child pornography websites. To access the phone (and its data), victims were asked to pay several hundred dollars.

Ransomware may also request administrator rights at installation, giving the wayward app the ability to lock the phone, read notifications and remote-wipe your data. Once given, you may never be able to retract the access, as in the case of the trojan Obad.a, which hid itself and set to work scraping users’ info, spamming contacts and downloading more malware.

“When ransomware is downloaded to a phone from a malicious website, it takes the form of an APK (Android application package), often disguised as an anti-virus app,” Linden says. “Or it may in some way trick you into launching the app. To avoid this, do not grant applications administrator access unless the app is reputable.”

If you must travel off the beaten path for apps, only download non-app store apps from trusted third parties.

9. Install OS and app updates

Finally, the obvious but biggest way to protect your smartphone security: Download software updates for your phone and its apps whenever they’re available. Updates are designed to patch bugs and vulnerabilities.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Researchers Develop a Smartphone Screen that Corrects for Vision Problems
Amazon Now Lets You “Make an Offer”
1.2M Smartphones Stolen in 2013, Thefts Down in 2014
Colleges Using Big Data to Track At-Risk Students

TIME headphones

These Are the 4 Best Headphones for the Holidays

ATH-M50x
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Audio-Technica

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are the best under $200

Few gifts are safer than a pair of headphones. Unless you’re shopping for DJs or recording artists, chances are your recipient is still limping along with two-year-old Apple earbuds. Just about any pair will provide some improvement.

And then there’s you. Once you’ve given up on your new fitness tracker, why not trade it in for a decent pair of headphones? You may not lose any weight, but your ears will thank you.

With this in mind, we set out to pick a handful of headphones with a good mix of price and quality. We compiled expert reviews from across the industry, gathered specifications for each pair, and tracked customer reviews. We ended up with four final pairs, each best for a particular kind of shopper. Yes, you can break headphones into a dozen more categories, but in our experience, most consumers just want one of these four types.

The Dirt Cheap Pick

Koss KSC75 ($15)

Officially, we advise against picking something dirt cheap (aka under $30), but if you must—and based on our user behavior, many people must—the Koss KSC75 are a pretty reasonable pair. With decent lows and crisp highs, the KSC75 headphones sound like they should cost $100, not $15.

Before you buy, keep in mind that these are clip-on style headphones, so while they’re good for running or biking, they’re not as sleek looking or as comfortable as a pair of (worse-sounding) Beats. The KSC75 also use an open-air operating principle, which is a fancy way of saying that music will sound more natural (like you’re at a concert) but that a bit of sound will leak—making them less ideal for a study session at the library.

The Sporty Pick

Sony XBA-S65 ($90)

Already a solid pair of headphones, the Sony XBA-S65’s design helped cement its spot. Light but secure, simple-looking but sweatproof, these in-ear headphones the perfect choice for a runner, cyclist or gym rat.

Sound-wise, the XBA-S65 are solid across the board, with good detail and a clear, pleasant mid-range. They do show some restraint with the bass, but we like how this keeps the listening experience balanced. If you need a pounding, aggressive low-end to drive your workout, you may want to look elsewhere. For everyone else, grab this pair and head to the gym.

The ‘Affordable Luxury’ Pick

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x ($169)

The most popular model at our office, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x sound like $300 but clock in at nearly the half the price. The headphones have a balanced, accurate sound overall, with a classy kick in the bass that’s sharp but not overpowering.

The pair is also notable for its design, with detachable cords, cans that can swivel and some of the comfier earcups on the market.

If there’s one thing to criticize, it’s the bulk. Even for an over-ear pair, all the design frills make for a hefty product, particularly for anyone who’s spent time with a light pair, like the Bose Quietcomfort 15s.

The Premium Pick

Sennheiser HD 650 ($396)

It’s not the newest pair on the market, but in this case, it doesn’t matter: the Sennheiser HD 650s are still among the finest headphones you can buy, even eight years since their release. They pull off the rare feat of combining accurate, detailed audio with a warm overall ambience, making them a gratifying listen for both audiophiles and casual listeners alike.

Like our dirt cheap pick, the Sennheiser HD 650s have an open-air operating principle, so some sound will leak to classmates or coworkers. The only other problem, of course, is the price. If you’re simply squeezing in half a podcast in the evenings, you won’t notice what all that extra money is getting you. If, however, you want a transcendent audio experience, the Sennheiser HD 650s are an excellent choice.

More from FindTheBest:

The Most Iconic Firearms in Film
Six Questions to Ask Before Buying a Fitness Tracker
Today’s Trendiest, Fastest Rising Baby Names

TIME How-To

5 Awesome Things You Didn’t Realize You Could Do With iPhone’s Touch ID

Apple iPhone Touch ID
An employee holds an Apple Inc. iPhone with the "check out" section of a demonstration bank payment web page using the Zapp money transfer and payment system in this arranged photograph at the company's offices in London, U.K., on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Like most of Apple’s new technologies and modern conveniences, Touch ID is something you didn’t know you needed until you got it. As a fingerprint-authorized security sensor embedded in your iPhone 5S-or-newer handset (and on the newest iPads), this innovation lets you securely unlock your phone with a simple touch and make wallet-less purchases using the company’s Apple Pay service.

But that’s only where this technology begins. Here are five more ways you can use Touch ID to lock down your digital life:

Authenticate Your Apps

As great as Touch ID is, it will only keep people from monkeying with your Apple device. If someone knows the password to your web-based accounts like Facebook or Gmail, they can just log in on other hardware. Two-factor authentication, the process of using more than just a password to log into a service, doubles up your security, and apps like Authy can give you that added layer by providing you with a “token,” or a code that changes every 20 seconds.

This technology isn’t new, but Authy (which is free) allows users to lock app with Touch ID, giving it three levels of authentication — one of which being your fingerprint — making your accounts as secure as can be.

Unlock Your Computer

Once you start using Touch ID to secure your iPhone or iPad, you’ll start wondering why you still have to peck a password into your computer. Well, you can get around that with FingerKey, a $1.99 iOS app (with a complementary Mac program) that uses the fingerprint sensor embedded in your mobile device’s home button to autofill your computer’s passkey.

By pairing the phone to your computer via Bluetooth, the software duo forms a secure connection, waking the computer and entering your password. Right now, the solution is only available for Apple computers, but Linux and Windows versions are already in the works.

Secure Your Phone Records

Using Google Voice is a great way to trim back on your cellular service, but you can also take your number with you, roaming-free, when you travel worldwide. There are many ways to access the service on an iPhone, but one way to keep the app under wraps is by using GV Connect. This $2.99 app not only bundles together all of Google Voice’s great features, like voicemail transcription and text messaging, but it also lets users lock down the app using Touch ID, ensuring that all your records, texts, and voicemails stay private.

Protect Your Personal Journal

Remember when you were a kid, and your little sister Cindy read your diary? Oh wait, you’re not Marsha Brady. But then again, who writes diaries anymore? Instead, they log extensive journals on great apps like DayOne, a 2014 Apple Design Award winner that allows users to capture all the details of their lives using smartphone tools, from what song was playing when you first met her, to what the weather was like on the day he was born.

And with Touch ID security, now those details are locked away as safely — or moreso, perhaps — as if they were in your mind. So rest assured, your deepest thoughts and biggest secrets can indeed be committed to text while being completely shielded from prying eyes.

Sign Sensitive Documents

In 2005, Iraqi voters produced images of what they call the “electoral stain,” an ink-covered finger of people who just made their mark. If you can vote with a fingerprint, imagine if you could sign a contract with one too. SignEasy lets iPhone and iPad users do this through its handy app, linking the secure fingerprint sensor with e-signatures to authorize documents via mobile devices.

More secure than just scrawling your name on the touchpad, this free app makes the process more secure than before, when a four-digit pin code was required to make your mark. Get that — a pin code. How quaint! You might as well just use a pen.

TIME hackers

Sony Was Also Hacked a Year Ago but Didn’t Say Anything

Sony Hack
The Sony Corp. logo is displayed outside the company's showroom in Tokyo on Oct. 30, 2013 Bloomberg/Getty

Sony kept mum about security vulnerabilities it noticed in February, almost a year before hackers began tossing large volumes of the company's private data around the Internet

Sony Pictures Entertainment appears to have known that its servers were vulnerable for at least a year before the recent hacking fiasco, Gawker reports.

In emails dated Feb. 12, 2014, Sony’s vice president of legal compliance, Courtney Schaberg, tells her colleagues that a Sony server may have been hacked. Yet Schaberg goes on to say in the email that she would “recommend against providing any notification to individuals.”

Anonymous hackers have been disseminating Sony’s corporate data since last month, including an embarrassing set of emails between Sony co-chairperson Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin. In the emails, Rudin calls Angelina Jolie a “minimally talented spoiled brat.”

Read more at Gawker

TIME Investing

This New App Makes It Way Cheaper to Trade Stocks

Robinhood
Robinhood Robinhood

Robinhood wants to convince Millennials to dip a toe into the stock market

Next up for disruption by the Silicon Valley set: Wall Street.

A new startup is aiming to convince Millennials to dip a toe into the stock market by making it cheaper and easier to buy securities. Robinhood, a new mobile-first brokerage that launched its iOS app today, lets users buy U.S.-listed stocks without paying a commission, a cost that typically runs individual investors $7 to $10 per trade.

The app’s slick interface lets users buy securities, track stock performance and keep tabs on their overall portfolio. Users don’t even have to maintain a minimum account balance, a common requirement of similar stock-swapping services.

“People in our age group were not being exposed to what we consider a pretty useful tool for building your wealth,” says Robinhood co-founder Vlad Tenev. He and co-founder Baiju Bhatt launched Robinhood in beta for a few thousand users earlier this year. Already half a million people have signed up to request the app, indicating a heavy appetite for cheaper trades. These users will begin being on-boarded to the app today, and newcomers can download the app to join the waitlist and view different stocks.

The company, which has netted $16 million in venture funding from backers like Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures, plans to make money by letting investors trade on margin (basically issuing loans to let customers buy additional stock).

Whether or not young investors really need a service that lets them buy stocks “as quickly as you can call an Uber,” as Bhatt puts it, is an open question. Most active stock pickers fail to outperform the overall stock market. During the first 9 months of 2014, only 9.3% of actively managed mutual funds outperformed the S&P 500, according to the Wall Street Journal — and those funds are managed by people whose job is to be good at picking stocks.

Tenev argues that stock-picking is a good way for young people to learn about investing. “It makes a lot of sense for a first-time investor who is an early adopter of technology and discovers companies through using their products and services,” he says.

That advice flies in the face of a lot of collective wisdom about investing, including from famed businessman Warren Buffet. But for those that are still confident they can beat the market and would like to attempt it more affordably, Robinhood will also be available on Android and on desktop soon.

TIME Gadgets

Early Apple Computer Bought From Steve Jobs’ Garage Sells for $365,000

Apple 1 Computer Christie's Images LTD.

It had been expected to sell between $400,000 to $600,000

An early Apple computer purchased from Steve Jobs’ parents’ garage was auctioned off Thursday at Christie’s for $365,000.

The 1976 Apple-1 Computer is the only known surviving Apple-1 documented to have been sold from Jobs’ parents’ garage, where the computers were built, Christie’s said in a statement. The “Ricketts Apple-1 Computer,” named after its first owner, Charles Rickett, was estimated to be worth between $400,000 to $600,000.

Another Apple-1 computer was sold for $397,750 last year at Christie’s.

TIME Social Media

Malala Yousafzai’s 3 Tips for Taking Stellar Selfies

Malala Selfie
Malala Yousafzai poses for a selfie with admirers at the National Academy for the Performing Arts on July 30, 2014 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sean Drakes/CON—LatinContent/Getty Images

She's still a 17-year-old, after all

Sure, Malala Yousafzai just became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, but she’s also a 17-year-old. And that means the Pakistani education activist knows a thing or two about selfies, and — believe it or not — takes selfies, too.

Here are three of Malala’s best practices for taking great selfies:

1. Use selfies for good.

In an interview with the New York Times, Malala explained her approach to taking selfies. And it has nothing to do with angles or lighting:

I think it’s important that we use social media, but for a good purpose. For instance, it’s good to take a selfie to say ‘hey what’s up’ and those things, but I think it’s also important that we use it for the good purpose of highlighting the issues that children all over the world are facing.

One of those selfies-for-good was one GMA anchor Amy Robach snapped this summer of Malala, Ban Ki-moon and herself for the #showyourselfie campaign. The campaign, launched by the United Nations Population Fund, brought awareness to the importance of including young people in decision-making processes:

2. Learn from selfies.

Malala doesn’t think that selfies and hashtag activism should be dismissed as useless forms of advocacy. In fact, she credits the #BringBackOurGirls photo campaign for bringing awareness to the public — and to herself — of the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram earlier this year. “I came to know about Bring Back Our Girls because it was on Twitter, you could see it,” Malala told the Times. “I think this is the way we can highlight what’s happening and we can speak for our rights.”

She even was inspired to take her own “selfie:”

3. Don’t be above taking selfies.

While Malala champions selfies-for-good, that doesn’t mean she won’t take one just to take one. But make sure to bring your own cellphone — Malala still doesn’t have one.

So this happened. #malalaselfie @forbes #under30summit #techgirls #nobelpeaceprize #malalayousafzai

A photo posted by Tiphani Montgomery (@tiphanimontgomery) on

A Selfie with Noble Peace Prize winner 2014 Malala Yousafzai. Congratulations Malala.

A photo posted by Frank Mugisha (@frankmugisha) on

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser