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A new flaw which can make your iPhone crash from just receiving a message has been discovered and has been dubbed 'text bomb'.

The issue was found by software developer Abraham Masri, who found sending a message containing a particular link can crash and in some cases restart your iPhone altogether.

The flaw also affects those on a Mac and can crash your Safari browser or slowdown your computer in other ways.

You don't even need to press on the link either, as the problems from 'text bomb' begin by just receiving the iMessage. Masri previously reported the issue to Apple and claims he released it publicly to "get Apple's attention". 

But you shouldn't experience it

Masri has since taken the code needed for 'text bomb' down from GitHub - a website for programmers where the code was hosted - and claims he won't reupload the bug in the future. 

That should have disabled the problem, so you shouldn't experience this yourself. That said, someone else may be able to replicate the problem in the future and upload it themselves to reinstate the attack.

Even if that does happen though, you shouldn't worry too much if it lands on your phone.

Security expert Graham Cluley has commented on the new crash saying it's, "Nasty but, thankfully, more of a nuisance than something that will lead to data being stolen from your computer or a malicious hacker being able to access your files."

Apple hasn't yet commented on the flaw, but we will be sure to update this article if we hear more from the manufacturer.


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I let a machine critique my novel
Posted by Cat Ellis on 18 January 2018 10:37 AM

After letting my novel mature/fester over the Christmas break, I started the new year by putting it on a dramatic weight-loss plan. Reading the first draft in the cold light of January, there are clearly rolls of flab to be burnt away and replaced with lean, muscular prose before it’s ready to be exposed to the public. The metaphors might need toning down too.

It’s part fun, part painful. Does it really matter what that fancy hotel looks like? Nope – away it goes. Who cares about that car journey? Nobody – ditch it. Why on Earth is everyone drinking so much tea? Time to cut back.

Nit-picking with Autocrit

As a former copy editor, I like to think I have a reasonable grasp of language, but editing your own work is quite different to working on someone else’s. It’s easy to skim over your mistakes and written tics.

That’s why I decided to give Autocrit a go. Billed as “manuscript editing software for fiction writers”, it goes through your work with a red pen, highlighting potential issues with ruthless efficiency.

Autocrit report

My initial Autocrit report. Not actually as bad as it looks, thank goodness

The software (a web app – it runs in your browser) can’t assess your story’s overall structure or tell you if your main character is an irritating wet blanket. Instead, it alerts you to issues like repeated words and phrases, 

It’s by no means infallible – following all its suggestions could leave your writing sounding unnatural and, frankly, like it was written by a robot – but it can highlight some problems you’d otherwise miss. It's up to you as the author to decide if and how to act on its suggestions.

First, you’re given an overall score based on the quality of your writing. Mine was 86.64. This is a pretty arbitrary figure – the interesting part comes when you drill down to reports on pacing and momentum, word choice and readability.

These are broken down further into categories including repeated uncommon words that might stick out in the reader’s mind, repeated phrases, sentence length and dialogue tags (particularly those other than 'said' and 'asked').

Autocrit pacing report

An Autocrit pacing report – the more wiggly, the better

The generic descriptions report helpfully pointed out that I overuse the words ‘pretty’ and ‘good’. Pretty much every paragraph – no good. However, it also slapped my wrist for overusing the bland adjective ‘nice’. With no context, it had no way of knowing I was writing about the French city Nice. Understandable.

Too much, too soon

Having thrown a chunk of my novel into Autocrit’s jaws and examining the bloodied remains, I realised it’s not yet ready for this level of savaging. You probably won't roll with all of its suggestions, but it really pushes you to examine what you've written word by word. 

That's very helpful, but I'm not ready for that level of close reading yet. Only yesterday, I decided to un-kill one of my main characters. Word-by-word editing is a long way off.

The subscription fee is pretty steep (there I go again), at US$29.97 (about £20, AU$40) per month. I’ll probably come back to Autocrit once I've refined the overall shape of things a bit more.

For now, the robot editor's going back in its box, red pen and all.

  • Cat Ellis has turned to technology to help write her first novel. Follow her progress in her Sculpt Fiction column. 

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Moto G6 Plus possibly caught on camera
Posted by James Rogerson on 18 January 2018 10:24 AM

Yesterday, renders seemingly showing several unannounced Motorola phones were leaked, and now we can go one better as photos allegedly showing the Moto G6 Plus in the flesh have emerged.

Posted to Reddit, the images seem to line up with yesterday's render, showing a screen that likely has an 18:9 aspect ratio, with a Motorola logo and a home button/fingerprint scanner below it.

We can only see the front of the phone and it's a bit blurry, so details are hard to make out, but given that it matches what we've seen before it could well be the real deal – though we'd still take it with a pinch of salt.

Subject to change

Even if this really is the Moto G6 Plus it's supposedly a pre-production model, so it might well undergo changes before it launches.

There's no new information on the specs, but previously we'd heard rumors that the G6 Plus would have a 5.93-inch FHD+ screen, a Snapdragon 630 chipset, 3GB, 4GB or 6GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of storage, a dual-lens rear camera with 12MP and 5MP lenses, a 16MP front-facing camera and a fingerprint scanner, making it something of a mid-ranger.

There's no news on a release date, but the Moto G5 Plus was announced at MWC 2017, so there's a chance we'll see the Moto G6 Plus at MWC 2018, which starts on February 26, so we might not have long to wait.

Via PhoneArena

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Hori Onyx PS4 controller finally cuts the cord on third-party gamepads
Posted by Jon Porter on 18 January 2018 09:52 AM

Hori's Onyx PS4 controller is the first wireless third-party controller for the console, which means that other manufacturers will finally be able to match the functionality of Sony's own-branded gamepads. 

Competition is never a bad thing, and third-party controllers are no exception. They keep console manufacturers like Sony on their toes, and gamers ultimately get to benefit. 

We've been impressed with alternatives to the DualShock 4 in the past such as Razer's Raiju but up until now they've all been wired, making them suitable for only a small subset of the console's complete audience. 

True competition

The arrival of the Onyx changes this, and means you'll finally be able to get an alternative controller without having to put up with reduced functionality. 

Design wise, the controller is much more similar to the Xbox One's controller design than the DualShock 4. The analogue stick and D-pad are swapped, and the D-pad is of Nintendo's classic 'cross-shaped' design rather than Sony's standard split configuration. 

The Hori Onyx is available in the UK now for £45, but no US or AU availability has yet been announced. 

  • Want some games to play? Our guide to the best PS4 games has you covered

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The 5 best Linux laptops of 2018
Posted by Desire Athow,Nate Drake on 18 January 2018 09:37 AM

There was a time when Linux was seen as an outcast operating system, and indeed one that was labelled as a ‘cancer’ by Microsoft’s former CEO Steve Ballmer.

Times have now changed as the 27-year-old operating system has made some serious inroads in the server market, then in the cloud – not forgetting that it underpins the most popular ecosystem out there: Android.

Because none of the main notebook vendors – bar Dell – offer Linux as an OS option, this leaves other smaller companies the ability to carve a niche for themselves.

Below are the five best Linux laptops of 2017 we’ve picked out using our expert eye – note that they have been fine-tuned to run a specific flavour of Linux (such as Ubuntu, for example).

The XPS 13 retains its crown as the undisputed champion of the Ultrabook market, and one can only admire Dell for its unwavering Linux support on a flagship machine. The laptop is customisable so you can configure it to be suitable for everything from routine office tasks to gaming, depending on how much you’re willing to pay.

If you wish, you can plump for the most expensive XPS 13, which has a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) InfinityEdge touchscreen. The slightly more wallet-friendly configuration runs with a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) 13.3-inch InfinityEdge non-touch display. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the higher-res screen will tax the GPU and CPU more, and may affect battery life adversely.

As this is touted as a 'Developer' edition, it's surprising there aren't more customisation options. The basic model comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and cannot be upgraded during checkout. The more expensive version allows you to choose between the default 512GB SSD or to pay extra for a 1TB solid-state drive.

Both models come preinstalled with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

Google and its armada of Chromebooks seem to have cornered the bottom end of the laptop market, much to the chagrin of traditional Linux users who demand far better value for money. However, one small vendor has pledged to change the way things work.

Alpha Universal uses Elementary OS to power its Litebook laptop. While you can get a Chromebook for roughly the same price with a comparable amount of system RAM, the Litebook gives you much more storage for your buck as well as far more in the way of expansion capabilities. The Intel Celeron N3150 quad-core processor (clocked at 1.6GHz) is also very respectable for an ultra-light machine.

Combine this with a Full HD display and 512GB of storage courtesy of a hard disk – or you can elect to have a 120GB SSD instead, or alternatively the ‘hybrid’ option is a 512GB HDD plus a 32GB SSD – and it’s clear the Litebook is a great way for a beginner to explore the world of Linux.

If you need a more powerful machine, the Alpha Store does offer Linux laptops with beefier specs such as the Centurion Ultra.

Purism embarked upon a quest to build the most secure laptop ever and (obviously) chose Linux (PureOS) to power the device – it is the only notebook vendor on the market to offer physical kill switches as standard on its laptops.

Instead of going mainstream, the company tapped into the crowdfunding community to gain more than $430,000 (around £320,000, AU$550,000) worth of funding, allowing it to adopt a stricter ethos than most firms when it comes to privacy, rights to free software and security.

The Librem 13 might look and feel like a bog-standard laptop but there's far more to it than meets the eye (for example, the company designed its own motherboards).

In addition, Purism’s commitment to Linux (and security in general) certainly goes beyond most of the vendors on this list.

The Oryx Pro was built for Linux and indeed currently offers a choice of either Ubuntu 16.04 or System76’s own Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS 17.10 on purchase.

The chassis is made from lightweight aluminium with a matte black finish and you even have a choice of display size (15.6 or 17.3-inch). Graphics are provided by GeForce GTX 10 series GPUs and the Oryx packs an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor (with Turbo to 3.8GHz) into its thin frame.

The online store encourages you to customise the Oryx to suit your needs. By default you get 8GB of RAM and a 250GB SSD, but you can pay extra to upgrade to 64GB of system memory with a 2TB SSD if you wish – although the top-end configurations get very expensive here.

You can also choose between Nvidia’s GTX 1060 and GTX 1070 when it comes to the GPU, and it’s possible to add extra drives, or purchase a laptop bag designed to carry and protect your machine. The warranty of the notebook can be extended to provide coverage for three years.

On paper, the Galago Pro from System76 is an absolute beast of a machine, and yet it weighs less than most laptops which also have a 13-inch screen. This is a notebook that rivals the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition, featuring an aluminium chassis, and managing to make space for up to 32GB of RAM (yes, 32GB).

The Galago Pro has two hard drive bays. The 'OS Drive' in the first bay is a 120GB SSD by default but can be specified at up to 2TB when you order. You can also choose to install a second SSD in the other bay of up to 4TB capacity.

If that wasn’t enough, it has a 13.3-inch display with a resolution of 3,200 x 1,800, an Ethernet port, an SD card reader, two USB ports and a Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C/mini-DisplayPort connector. In a nutshell, you will be hard pressed to get anything in Windows-land that can deliver this sort of compute power and storage capacity.

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