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Papua New Guinea

TECHNOLOGY

Huawei announcesnew operating system

HUAWEI has announced it is developing a new operating system called HarmonyOS.
There had been speculation that Huawei was planning to replace the Android operating system which powers its smartphones and tablets.
In May, Google suspended the company’s Android licence after the US government put Huawei on a trade blacklist.
However, Huawei said HarmonyOS would first be used in devices such as smart speakers and watches, rather than replacing Android in its phones.
“HarmonyOS is completely different from Android and iOS,” said Huawei’s Richard Yu, who announced the project at the Huawei Developer Conference in Dongguan, China.
He said the operating system would let developers create one version of their apps and then “flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices”.
Graphics displayed during his presentation did include depictions of smartphones as well as watches, cars and televisions.
A majority of smartphones around the world run on some form of the Android operating system, so being cut off from the ecosystem could make Huawei’s phones less appealing.
There were rumours that the company was going to replace Android in its phones, but Huawei says HarmonyOS will be used to power smart devices such as TVs, speakers and watches – at least to begin with.
If the operating system does make its way on to Huawei’s phones, consumers will expect to have access to all their favourite apps.
But app makers already have their hands full developing their software for Android and Apple’s iOS.
Huawei will have to convince them to develop yet another version for HarmonyOS, with no guarantee that people will buy the devices.
This is a problem faced by anyone hoping to challenge the dominance of Android and iOS.
It plagued BlackBerry 10, which never convinced some of the world’s biggest apps such as Instagram to support the platform.
Rival phone-maker Samsung already has its own Tizen operating system which powers many of its smart devices – but even it uses Android to power its flagship phones.
Huawei said it would initially focus the development of HarmonyOS on China, with plans to expand availability globally in the future.
It said HarmonyOS would be an open-source platform so that anybody could use the software to create compatible devices.
The core of Google’s Android OS is also open source, so companies can take the code and use it however they want. This approach is taken by Amazon in its Fire tablets.
However, there are restrictions on what phone-makers can do with Android if they want access to the Google Play app store, and to Google’s suite of popular apps such as Maps and YouTube.
Ben Wood from the CCS Insight consultancy said Huawei’s announcement was an “inevitable move”.
But he added: “Replacing [or] displacing Android is a virtually impossible task.”
In China, the new operating system will be called HongmengOS. – BBC

Gadgets can be hacked to produce ‘dangerous’ sounds, says researcher
Sustained loud sounds can annoy and disorientate people

MANY modern gadgets can be hacked to produce deafening and disorienting sounds, research has revealed.
Security researcher Matt Wixey found a range of devices had little protection to stop themselves being turned into “offensive” low-grade, cyber-weapons.
Wixey tested laptops, mobile phones, headphones, a PA system and several types of speakers.
The weaknesses could cause physical harm, harass individuals or disrupt larger organisations, he said.
Annoying tones
Wixey, who is a head of research at PWC’s cyber-security practice, said he conducted the experiments as part of PhD work into the ways that malware can directly cause physical harm.
He sought to find out if the volume and speaker controls of the devices could be manipulated to make them produce harmful high and low frequency sounds.
Custom-made viruses, known vulnerabilities and other exploits were used to subvert the devices and make them emit the dangerous sounds for long periods of time.
“Some attacks leveraged known vulnerabilities in a particular device, which could be done locally or remotely in some cases,” he told the BBC. “Other attacks would either require proximity to the device, or physical access to it.”
In one attack Wixey used a programME that scanned local wi-fi and Bluetooth networks for vulnerable speakers which it then sought to take over. Any compromised device would then be made to play the weaponised sound.
In some cases, the tones that the range of gadgets were made to emit would only annoy or disorientate people, but at sustained levels the noises were close to levels that could damage hearing, he said.
In one case, the device itself was harmed by the tests as it stopped working after the team made it emit a range of sounds over several minutes.
Testing was done in a soundproof room and no humans were involved during the series of experiments.
Wixey has been in contact with manufacturers to help them develop defences that can act if a device is being made to produce dangerous sounds.
The research will be detailed during a talk at the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas on 11 August. -BBC

Game rescuing kids from social anxieties

A COMPANY called Game to Grow plays D&D with troubled children to help them connect with their peers.
Games of Dungeons & Dragons often involve saving the world. Sometimes they end up saving the players themselves. Game to Grow believes that. The company uses a tailored Dungeons & Dragons experience as a platform to help children who have trouble socializing. The goal: provide them with a safe space to solve problems and learn to express themselves.
Game to Grow was one of the official charity partners of the Gen Con board game convention in Indianapolis last weekend. The company officially launched a couple of years ago, but the founders, Adam Johns and Adam Davis, each have more than eight years of experience using games as a means to help children become more comfortable in social situations.
Based in Seattle, Game to Grow is a nonprofit organsation that runs “tabletop RPG therapy gaming groups” weekly for kids from ages eight to 20. They work with more than 50 kids a week, many of whom are on the Autism spectrum.
If you’re not familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, it traditionally involves exploring a world, battling monsters and working together to solve problems. The dungeon master or game master uses a prewritten adventure or one of their own designs, then describes where you, the player, are in the world and what’s happening. You respond and tell the game master what you’d like to do as your character. The game master follows certain preset rules to determine if you’re successful.
Each player plays a role as a fantasy character — a wizard, a rogue, a warrior or any other variation. The dungeon master fills out the world by playing the part of any other character the party of players might come across. Your goal in one game might be to slay a monster, but your goal in another could be to talk to various people at a party to try and solve a mystery, or convince a king to sue for peace with a neighboring government.

Game to Grow was an official charity partner of the Gen Con board game convention.

With Game to Grow, the mission and the game are specifically designed to tackle the challenges of the participants. As groups are formed, facilitators call parents to understand each child’s particular goals and challenges. Each session lasts an hour and a half and involves reflection questions before and after the actual game, giving facilitators a chance to see what aspects of the story are most interesting to each participant.
Many of the children involved have autism, ADHD, anxiety or depression, but Adam Johns calls the company “agnostic to diagnosis.”  “Diagnoses can be informative,” he explains. “They can give us information, but at the end of the day I still want to know, really, where the goals are. Somebody has a diagnosis of autism, that doesn’t tell me anything about what their goals are or even what are their challenges.”
While the company grew from Adam Davis’ degree in drama therapy, he distinguishes the program from traditional therapy in a couple of key ways. Kids with social disorders are often taught how to blend in and mask who they are to fit in better. He calls it “social camouflage” and mentioned the “institutionalized shame that comes with who you are as an autistic person.”

The founders of Game to Grow, Adam Johns and Adam Davis.

That’s not the goal of Game to Grow.
“We see kids that are burned out on therapy, that don’t want to come back to therapy, but they come to our group, week after week. It’s the one thing they don’t want to miss,” Adam Johns says.
“Part of what we do is we say you are yourself and that is OK,” Adam Davis says.
“You can participate and we can celebrate your uniqueness and your unique skill set.”– CNET

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