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Main article: USB-C

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 11

LA warns of ‘juice-jacking’ malware, but admits it has no cases

17:33 | 15 November

Los Angeles’ district attorney is warning travelers to avoid public USB charging points because “they may contain dangerous malware.”

Reading the advisory, you might be forgiven for thinking that every USB outlet you see is just waiting for you to plug in your phone so it can steal your data. This so-called “juice-jacking” attack involves criminals loading malware “on charging stations or cables they leave plugged in at the stations so they may infect the phones and other electronic devices of unsuspecting users,” it reads. “The malware may lock the device or export data and passwords directly to the scammer.”

But the county’s chief prosecutor’s office told TechCrunch said that it has “no cases” of juice-jacking on its books, though it said there are known cases on the east coast.When asked where those cases were, the spokesperson did not know. And when asked what prompted the alert to begin with, the spokesperson said it was part of “an ongoing fraud education campaign.”

Which begs the question — why?

Security researcher Kevin Beaumont

that he hasn’t seen “any evidence of malware being used in the wild on these things.” In fact, ask around and you’ll find very little out there. Several security researchers have dropped me messages saying they’ve seen proof-of-concepts, but nothing actively malicious.

Juice-jacking is a real threat, but it’s an incredibly complicated and imperfect way to attack someone when there are far easier ways.

The idea, though — that you can plug in your phone and have your secrets stolen — is not entirely farfetched. Over the years there have been numerous efforts to demonstrate that it’s possible. As ZDNet points out in its coverage of the juice-jacking warning, the FBI sent out a nationwide alert about the threat after security researcher Samy Kamkar developed an Ardunio-based implant designed to look like a USB charger to wirelessly sniff the air for leaky key strokes. And just earlier this year, a security researcher developed an iPhone charger cable clone that let a nearby hacker run commands on the vulnerable computer.

LA recommend using an AC power outlet and not a charging station, and to take your cables with you. That’s sound advice, but it’s just one of many things you need to do to keep your devices and data safe.

 


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The new AirFly Pro is the perfect travel buddy for your AirPods Pro

22:02 | 14 November

Accessory maker TwelveSouth has a solid lineup of gadgets, many of which fill a niche that their products uniquely address – and address remarkably well. The AirFly Pro ($54.99) is a new iteration on one of those, providing a way to connect Bluetooth headphones to any audio source with a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s being sold at Apple Stores, too, as part of its launch today – and there’s good reason for that: This is the ideal way to make sure you can use your AirPods Pro just about everywhere, including with airplane seatback entertainment systems.

The AirFly Pro will work with any Bluetooth headphones, not just AirPods Pro – but the latest noise cancelling earbuds from Apple are among the best available when it comes to both active noise cancellation and sound quality, both great assets for frequent travellers and people more likely to encounter an in-flight entertainment system. But the AirFly Pro has additional tricks up its sleeve that earn it the ‘Pro’ designation.

This is the first version of the product from TwelveSouth that offers the ability to stream audio in, as well as out. That means you can use it with a car stereo system that only access auxiliary audio-in, for instance, to stream directly from your iPhone to the vehicle’s sound system. The AirFly Pro can also serve that function for home stereo sound equipment, speakers or other audio equipment that accepts audio in, but not Bluetooth streaming connections.

One other neat trick the AirFly Pro packs: Audio sharing, so that you can connect two pairs of headphones at once. This is similar to the native audio sharing feature that Apple introduced for its own AirPod line in the most recent iOS update, but it works through the AirFly with any audio source, and any Bluetooth headphones. That’s yet another great feature for when you’re traveling with a partner.

I’ve had a bit of time to spend with the AirFly Pro, and so far it’s been rock solid, with easy pairing and set up, and a convenient keychain ring/3.5mm connector cap for making it easier to keep with you. It charges via USB-C, and there’s a USB-A to USB-C cable included, too. The on-board battery lasts for 16 or more hours, which is more than enough time for even the longest of flights, and again you’re getting that audio sharing feature which is super handy even around the house for just checking something out on the iPad on your couch.

Alongside the AirFly Pro, TwelveSouth also introduced new AirFly Duo and AirFly USB-C models. The difference is that neither of these offer that wireless audio input mode – but you get up to 4 more hours of battery life for the trade-off. The USB-C model also offers USB-C audio compatibility, for connecting to devices that use that connection for sound instead of 3.5mm, and both of these still also offer dual headphone connectivity, for $5 less at $49.99 each.

 


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The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is a truly great game controller

18:37 | 5 November

Microsoft’s original Xbox Elite controller was a major step-up for gamers, with customizable buttons, changeable physical controls and adjustable sensitivity for serious personalization. The new Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 has just landed, and it offers similar features, but with new and improved features that add even more customization options, along with key hardware improvements that take what was one of the best gaming controllers available, and make it that much better.

USB-C

This might seem like a weird place to start, but the fact that the new Xbox Elite 2 comes with USB-C for charging and wired connections is actually a big deal, especially given that just about every other gadget in our lives has moved on to adapting this standard. Micro USB is looking decidedly long in the tooth, and if you’re like me, one of the only reasons you still have those cables around at all is to charging your game controllers.

In the box, you get a braided USB-A to USB-C charging cable, which is plenty long enough to reach from your console to your couch at nine feet. Of course, you can also use your phone, tablet, MacBook or any other USB-C charger and cable combo to power up the Elite 2, which is why it’s such a nice upgrade.

This is big for one other key reason: Apple recently added Xbox controller compatibility to its iPad lineup, which also charges via USB-C. That’s what makes this the perfect controller for anyone looking to turn their tablets into a portable gaming powerhouse, since it reduces the amount of kit you need to pack when you want to grab the controller and have a good option for digging into some iPad gaming.

Adjustable everything

Probably the main reason to own the Elite 2 is that it offers amazing customization options. New to this generation, you can even adjust the resistance of the thumbsticks, which is immensely useful if you’re a frequent player of first-person shooter (FPS) games, for instance. This lets you tune the sensitivity of the sticks to help ensure you’re able to find the right balance of sensitivity vs. resistance for accurate aiming, and it should help pros and enthusiasts make the most of their own individual play style.

The shoulder triggers also now have even shorter hair trigger locks, which mean you can fire quicker with shorter squeezes in-game. And in the case, you’ll find other thumbsticks that you can swap out for the ones that are pre-installed, as well as a d-pad you can use to place the multi-directional pad.

On top of the hardware customization, you can also tweak everything about the controller in software on Windows 10 and Xbox One, using Microsoft’s Accessories app. You can even assign a button to act as a ‘Shift’ key to provide even more custom options, so that you can set up key combos to run even more inputs. Once you find a configuration you like, you can save it as a profile to the controller and switch quickly between them using a physical button on the controller’s front face.

Even if you’re not a hardcore multiplayer competitive gamer, these customization options can come in handy. I often use profiles that assign thumbstick clicks to the rear paddle buttons, for instance, which makes playing a lot of single-player games much more comfortable, especially during long sessions.

Dock and case included

The Xbox Elite 2 includes a travel case, just like the first generation, but this iteration is improved, too. It has a removable charging dock, which is a quality accessory in its own right. The dock offers pass-through charging even while the controller is inside the case, too, thanks to a USB-C cut-through that you can also seal with a rubberized flap when it’s not in use.

In addition to housing the charger and controller, the case can hold the additional sticks and D-pad, as well as the paddles when those aren’t in use. It’s got a mesh pocket for holding charging cables and other small accessories, and the exterior is a molded hard plastic wrapped in fabric that feels super durable, and yet doesn’t take up much more room than the controller itself when packed in a bag.

The case is actually a huge help in justifying that $179.99 price tag, since all of this would be a significant premium as an after-market add-on accessory for a standard controller.

Bottom line

Microsoft took its time with a successor to the original Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, and while at first glance you might think that not much has changed, there’s actually a lot of significant improvements here. The controller’s look and feel also feel better, with more satisfying button, pad and the stick response, and a better grip thanks to the new semi-textured finish on the front of the controller.

[gallery ids="1908338,1908336,1908334,1908333"]

USB-C and more customization options might be good enough reason even for existing Elite Controller owners to upgrade, but anyone on the fence about getting an Elite to begin with should definitely find this a very worthwhile upgrade over a standard Xbox One controller.

 


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QLED is finally available in a glass display with the HP Pavilion 27

20:00 | 6 January

HP today announced the Pavilion 27 and it looks spectacular. This is the first display that offers a QLED screen — HP calls it by it’s official name Quantum Dot — that’s on glass instead of film. The differences should be clear. When offered on glass, the images are sharper and cleaner — though so is the glare. I like glass displays.

This is a big step forward in the display world and should open up opportunities for additional products both larger and smaller. This screen offers over a billion different colors.

The Pavilion 27 is also HP’s thinnest screen to date. Most of it is just 6.5mm thick though the bottom of the display, where the ports and power supply lives, is much thicker. This screen cannot be mounted flush on a wall and that’s a sham.

Connectivity options include USB-C, DisplayPort and HDMI. It will be available in March for $399.

 


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The iPad finally moves to USB-C

18:08 | 30 October

Lightning had a good run, but it’s time to switch everything to USB-C. Apple finally dropped the Lightning port with the new iPad Pro. And it’s much more versatile than Lightning.

For instance, you can plug a 5K display to your iPad Pro and show some video on the external display. It’s still unclear how it’s going to work when it comes to software, but it opens up a lot possibilities.

You can also use USB-C dongles to plus all sort of data accessories. SD card readers, Ethernet cables, etc. The iPad Pro is looking more and more like a traditional laptop. Many third-party accessory makers will probably use this opportunity to develop docks and other hubs.

Finally, the good thing about USB-C is that you can theoretically turn any device into an external battery pack. Using a USB-C to Lightning, you can now charge an iPhone from your iPad. It’s an expensive battery pack, but it can be useful for those who always carry both at the same time.

Now let’s hope this is the first sign that USB-C is coming to the iPhone. I can’t wait to use my laptop charger to charge my phone, or my iPhone charger to charge my Nintendo Switch.

Apple Fall Event 2018

 


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Back-to-college tech for minimalists and the over-prepared

17:15 | 1 August

Makula Dunbar Contributor
Makula Dunbar is a writer with Wirecutter.

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

Heading back to college with the best gear is the only push that some students need to get things moving in the right direction. While students are expected to take lecture notes during class, power through study sessions and, if necessary, do assignments on the go, there are tech essentials better suited than others for getting these jobs done.

Whether it’s time for a new laptop and protective gear or a few new accessories, we’ve got the recommendations covered.

Chromebook: Chromebook Flip C302CA

A Chromebook is a great choice for a simple notebook with a cloud-based storage system, and we think the Chromebook Flip C302CA is the best option. You’ll work predominantly in a browser and across apps — and whichever way is most comfortable, as the Chromebook Flip C302CA’s 360-degree hinge allows it to be used as a laptop or tablet.

It only comes with a few ports (a headphone jack, two USB-C ports and a microSD slot) but you can use an adapter to plug in additional peripherals. We like its backlit keyboard, touchscreen, Android app support and that its build feels more like a pricier Ultrabook. If portability is at the top of your list, it’s lightweight and compact, which makes carrying it around campus and doing work on the go more manageable.

Laptop for creative work: Dell XPS 15 & Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2017)

For film, photography and design students who can’t always use on-campus labs and want a capable machine of their own, we recommend the Dell XPS 15. This Windows laptop has a powerful graphics card and processor that contribute to quick upload and rendering speeds. The Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2017) is an alternative for students who prefer macOS.

It’s also equipped with a powerful processor, and both machines have excellent displays and responsive trackpads. Either laptop can handle heavy editing projects and demanding creative work that would otherwise slow down a basic laptop.

Anti-malware software: Malwarebytes Premium

In addition to antivirus software, secure passwords, data logins and two-factor authentication, a reliable anti-malware program will help ensure that your computer is protected against vulnerabilities. While antivirus software typically works against worms, viruses and Trojans, anti-malware tackles newer exploits that aren’t spread by email, USB drives or older avenues.

We recommend Malwarebytes Premium for macOS and Windows computers because it runs well with Windows Defender and doesn’t get in the way of other programs. It’s simple to set up and use, plus it performs real-time scanning and doesn’t require you to make special adjustments to settings in order to get the best coverage.

Bluetooth keyboard: Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

For students who like working across different setups, a Bluetooth keyboard provides the option to take a break from a laptop and work with a desktop computer, smartphone or tablet. The Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard can connect to three devices at once and switch between them with the press of a button.

It’s light, sturdy and small enough to stash in a backpack and use in class, at a library or anywhere else on the go. The combination of its rounded springy keys and the angle of its slope make it comfortable to use over long periods of time. Aside from outperforming other models that we tested, it’s inexpensive and offers two years of battery life with heavy use.

Sanho HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub (left)Type-C Multiport Adapter: Sanho HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub

With every school year that comes around, an updated batch of laptops are released — many of which come with the latest ports. The Sanho HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub pairs best with MacBooks that have a single USB-C port. It adds a single HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports and a USB-C port for passthrough charging.

You’ll be able to connect to HDMI displays that support 4K video while charging your computer at the same time. It’s small, durable and, like other USB-C port laptop adapters that connect devices with “legacy” ports or transfer data, it can be a lifesaver when you’re in a pinch.

These picks may have been updated by Wirecutter

 


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Satechi’s $30 Power Meter is designed to weed out bad USB-C cables

18:20 | 27 January

Satechi couldn’t have picked a better time to announce its USB-C Power Meter. Early last year, Benson Leung of Google’s Chromebook Pixel team discovered some troubling results when he systematically tested a number of cheap cords purchased off of Amazon, ultimately wreaking havoc on his own equipment. In November, Google issued a strongly worded advisement against third party fast charging.

Earlier this week, Dell recalled 101,000 batteries (bringing the total number north of 140,000) due to overheating concerns. And then, of course, there’s Samsung, whose train wreck of a phablet really cemented the potential threat of exploding devices in mainstream consciousness through a pair of high profile recalls and constant reminders from flight attendants.

All of which is to say that now is a great time capitalize on things by releasing a $30 peripheral that measures how much power your USB-C cable is transferring – a legit concern given what the technology is capable of. The product is pretty simplistic: plug the connected cable into one end and plug the other into a laptop port, and it will tell you the voltage, amps, and direction in real time.

It’s probably more peace of mind than serious research tool – and certainly it won’t stand in for the manner of data Leung compiled. And at the end of the day, your best bet it probably just going ahead and spending a little extra to pick up a USB-C cable from a reputable manufacturer.

 


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Amazon bans the sale of rogue USB-C cables

07:42 | 30 March

There’s good news in the fight against rogue USB-C cables, some of which have caused major problems with smartphones and laptops, after Amazon tightened the regulations around the type of cables that it sells.

The online retail giant has added non-compliant USB-C cables to its list of items prohibited for sale on its website, which already includes pirated DVDs and non-compliant electrical products. The new note added to Amazon’s page reads as follows:

Any USB-C™ (or USB Type-C™) cable or adapter product that is not compliant with standard specifications issued by “USB Implementers Forum Inc.”

In other words, at last, non-compliant USB-C cables, which can damage or shut down a device entirely, will be banned from sale on Amazon. This is a policy update though, and Amazon will need to police its seller community and shut down any who continue to offer dodgy cables.

This small but important update was spotted by Benson Leung, the Google engineer who has raised awareness of the dangers of faulty cabling after a USB-C destroyed his Pixel. Leung was tasked with testing USB-C cable compatibility with the Pixel and, among many things, he identified a flaw within the OnePlus type C charging cable and has generally championed increased vetting and standards.

USB-C is good news for consumers and companies alike because it helps standardize the very different kinds of ports and adaptors that tech firms have traditionally used for their products. But low quality and cheap cables have flooded the market, causing more harm than good by frying laptops and phones so that they can’t be used again. Finally, it seems that major distributors like Amazon are waking up to the issue and clamping down, but there’s plenty more to be done as Leung noted.

This is “really great news,” he said of the Amazon update, “but we all have to continue to be vigilant and call out any bad products we find on Amazon and other stores (both online and brick and mortar) as we find them.”

 


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Apple Recalls Some MacBook USB-C Cables Because Of Intermittent Charging Flaw

15:51 | 15 February

Apple is recalling certain MacBook USB-C charge cables because of a design flaw. The affected MacBook charge cables were sold worldwide up to last summer.

In a note about the charge cable recall on its website Apple says a “limited number” of its USB-C charge cables for the MacBook, which were included with the laptop through June 2015 may fail “due to a design issue”. It’s not specifying the exact problem but says MacBooks using the affected cables may not charge or may only charge intermittently.

The new USB-C port was only introduced by Apple to its MacBooks in March 2015, in a classic Cupertino convergence move that saw it combine multiple port functions — power, data input/output, accessories and display connection — into just the one USB-C port. So not without the other C-word, controversy, too.

Apple is replacing affected USB-C charge cables free of charge with a new, redesigned version. It notes that affected cables may also have been sold as standalone accessories, as well as being bundled with MacBooks, and these purchases will also be covered by the replacement program.

Affected cables have “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” stamped on them. Whereas the new, redesigned cables include a serial number after that text — as per the below image:

Apple says MacBook owners who provided a valid mailing address during the product registration process or Apple Online Store purchase will automatically be sent a new cable by the end of February 2016. All other eligible cable owners can request a replacement via Apple’s online replacement process.

It’s the second hardware accessory recall for Apple in less than a month. The company announced a recall for certain two-prong plugs at the end of January because of what it said was a “very rare” risk of the adaptors breaking and giving the user an electric shock.

Apple also offers a free battery replacement program for certain iPhone 5 devices, sold between September 2012 and January 2013, which are affected by a problem with the battery suddenly discharging or not holding charge adequately.

 


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Thunderbolt 3 Uses Reversible USB Type-C And Could Be The Ultimate Port

15:33 | 2 June

Intel has revealed all about its new Thunderbolt 3 specification at this year’s Computex conference, and it could be the port that best serves Apple’s single I/O vision of the MacBook’s future: Thunderbolt 3 uses a reversible USB-C connector, and includes USB 3.1 support, as well as increasing data transfer speed over Thunderbolt 2 by 100 percent to 40Gbps, and supporting use of up to two 4K displays running at 60Hz simultaneously.

The use of USB-C means that the connector could actually replace the single connector on next year’s version of the new MacBook, for instance, as it’s also capable of up to 100W of power transfer using the USB Power Delivery specification. Support for USB 3.1 means that it will work with current USB-C cables for connecting accessories and adapters, too, as well as supporting the higher bandwidth of Thunderbolt and the additional display connection options.

This could very well be the connector Apple is looking for to help create a MacBook Pro that is spiritually similar to the current 12-inch MacBook, too; it can offer significant advantages to pro users who still operating as a standard connection port for everyday devices, especially as more manufacturers move to use USB-C and USB 3.1 as their default connection standard for things like external hard drives and flash volumes.

Intel says i’ll ship the new connector starting later this year, with full-scale production ramping up in 2016. There’s no doubt in my mind that if things go according to plan, we’ll see MacBooks sporting the connector next year, too – and possibly mobile devices, as well, since the reversible port’s use of USB-C also offers precious component space savings over the current Thunderbolt connector spec.

 


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