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Wallpaper crash explained: Here's how a simple image can soft-brick phones – Android Authority

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How can a simple image crash an Android phone to the point that it becomes unusable?

It’s a question that came out frequently over the past 24 hours, as news of a “cursed wallpaper” spread around the web.

The wallpaper crash explained

Here’s a recap: Setting a particular image as wallpaper can send some phones into a loop of crashes that makes them unusable.

There are a few solutions, depending on how hard the phone is hit. Some users were able to change the wallpaper in the short interval between crashes. Others had success deleting the wallpaper using the recovery tool TWRP. But in most cases, the only solution was to reset the phone to factory settings, losing any data that’s not backed up.

The issue was brought to light by Ice Universe, the Chinese Twitter users known for leaks. Based on user reports, many models from Samsung and Google are affected, while we’ve also seen some reports from users of OnePlus, Nokia, and Xiaomi devices (it’s not clear if these latter devices ran stock software or custom ROMs). From our own testing and looking at user reports, Huawei devices seem to be less exposed to the wallpaper crash issue.

The issue affects up-to-date phones running Android 10, but as it turns out, it’s not actually new. Users have been reporting similar problems for a couple of years, and just last month Android Police reported on what appears to be a closely related issue specifically impacting Pixel phones running the Google Wallpapers app.

We asked a developer what’s going on

It’s a weird problem that has the potential to become a wider issue, especially if trolls get involved. It’s easy to envision unsavory characters boobytrapping wallpapers and sending them to unsuspecting users as a “prank.”

So, what’s going on?

We’ve seen a few explanations for the issue, most of them involving the color space of the image, which goes beyond what Android’s SystemUI can handle and causes a crash.

To get a better idea of what’s going with this Android wallpaper crash, we reached out to Davide Bianco, one of the lead developers of the POSP custom ROM project, who submitted an initial patch for the issue to the AOSP bug tracker.

Davide graciously explained for Android Authority readers how an image can cause such problems, cautioning it’s his “personal take.” Below is a lightly edited explanation from him:

The main issue right here is that SystemUI only handles sRGB images for the wallpaper and doesn’t have any check against non-sRGB wallpapers. This can lead to a particular crash in the ImageProcessHelper class, as a variable used to access an array goes over the array bounds.

For reference, here is the method definition .

This variable is called y, and it’s the sum of the current scanned pixel rgb values. This pixel is obtained from scanning every row and column of the greyscaled picture surface. Every time we get a pixel, we assign to y the sum of its rgb values (usually max is 255) and use said variable to access an element of the histogram array (which size is 256 max) and do stuff with said element.

Now, for normal greyscaled images the sum of rgb values is always 255, but this is no normal image. The variable y goes over 255, and it generates an out of bounds exception (any exception in SysUI is treated as fatal, leading to an infinite loop of crashes because the image gets processed every time SysUI starts). Now, one solution could be to add a check after y is assigned a value that basically sets y to 255 if it ever goes over the max bound. This actually works, but we get worse quality for some reason.

The LineageOS guys were able to find out that this particular issue happens because of poor rounding, mostly because the rgb values were always rounded to ceil instead of normal rounding. They were able to fix it by manually rounding the values and apparently this method also retains quality, but I really don’t see how, mostly because SysUI seems to always convert the image to sRGB, leading to a color loss when the color space is larger.

It was also discovered by one 9to5Google developer (Editor’s note:  the developer is Dylan Roussel, an Android developer and 9to5Google contributor) that the issue doesn’t occur on Android 11 as the picture is always converted to sRGB before it gets processed in any way.

I also tried crafting my own broken image with photoshop or gimp, but SysUI always converted the image to the safe color space, leading to no crash (but a loss of colors ofc). I even tried extracting the broken image color profile and using it in a new image, but still couldn’t get SysUI to crash.

There’s good news, and there’s bad news

android wallpaper crashandroid wallpaper crash

The bad news is the issue is now out in the open, and you can bet that some people will use it for mischief. More concerningly, this bug (or a very similar one) appears to have been an issue for at least a couple of years, with no visible action from Google.

Also bad news: if you fall victim to a prank (or your own curiosity), there’s no easy, pain-free method to undo it. At least factory reset remains as a last resort, but we still wouldn’t recommend trying it on your own device.

Read next: The best Android wallpapers: Default wallpapers from 125+ Android devices

The good news is this seems to be a straightforward bug, rather than malware or anything more nefarious. We say “seems” because we haven’t heard from Google back for confirmation. Also good news: this bug will not be an issue once Android 11 lands later this year.

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U.S., EU advocacy groups warn against Google's purchase of Fitbit – Yahoo Canada Finance

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U.S., EU advocacy groups warn against Google's purchase of FitbitU.S., EU advocacy groups warn against Google's purchase of Fitbit
FILE PHOTO: Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo in this illustration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twenty advocacy groups from the United States, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere signed a statement Wednesday urging regulators to be wary of Google’s $2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker company Fitbit Inc <FIT.N> because of privacy and competition concerns.

The 20 organizations – which include the U.S.-based Public Citizen, Access Now from Europe and the Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense – argued that the deal would expand the already considerable clout in digital markets of Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> Google.

Acquiring Fitbit would give Google such intimate information about users as how many steps they take daily, the quality of their sleep and their heart rates.

“Past experience shows that regulators must be very wary of any promises made by merging parties about restricting the use of the acquisition target’s data. Regulators must assume that Google will in practice utilize the entirety of Fitbit’s currently independent unique, highly sensitive data set in combination with its own,” the groups said.

Australian and Canadian groups were among the signatories.

A Google spokeswoman said the tech wearables space was crowded.

“This deal is about devices, not data,” she said. “We believe the combination of Google’s and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector.”

Google announced the deal in November to take on competitors in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smart watches. Fitbit’s market share has been threatened by deep-pocketed companies like Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS>.

Australia’s competition authority said this month that it may have concerns about the deal and would make a final decision in August.

EU antitrust regulators will decide by July 20 whether to clear the deal with or without concessions or open a longer investigation.

In Washington, Google is under antitrust investigation by the Justice Department, a congressional committee and dozens of states for allegedly using its massive market power to harm smaller competitors.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Samsung is selling a wireless charger that also sterilizes your phone – Engadget

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As the world comes to terms with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have learned that keeping a small distance and regularly washing their hands are important tools in limiting the transmission of the virus. However, when the humble smartphone is considered to be one of the dirtiest things someone can own, hand care may only go so far. In a bid to give its customers an phone-cleaning option that doesn’t involve an antibacterial wipe, Samsung has begun selling a wireless UV charger that promises to “kill up to 99 percent of bacteria within 10 minutes.”

The ITFIT UV Sterilizer is a very unremarkable white box that Samsung says is spacious enough to fit a Galaxy S20 Ultra. However, it’s not limited to just Samsung smartphones, or wireless gadgets like Galaxy Buds and the Galaxy Watch — if it fits inside then it can likely be disinfected (but may not be charged). Place the item(s) in the box, connect it to a USB-C power source and press the switch. The embedded 10-watt Qi charger will deliver power while it does its thing.

While it’s not an official Samsung design, the company sells the UV Sterilizer via a partnership with ITFIT, a Samsung sub-brand that seems to be applied to rebadged accessories. In the FCC listing for the device, the documentation includes a “Designed for Samsung” seal. Other ITFIT products made for Samsung include headphones and selfie sticks.

Wireless UV chargers aren’t new, but they’ve seen a huge rise in popularity following the coronavirus outbreak. Samsung doesn’t explicitly state that its UV Sterilizer successfully eradicates SARS-CoV-2, but a recent research study suggests that UVC lamps are capable of killing “more than 99.9 percent of airborne coronaviruses.”

The ITFIT UV Sterilizer is currently only being sold in Thailand for 1,590 baht (around $51), although it is also listed (but not available) in Hong Kong. There’s no word on whether it will go on sale in the US, but big-name accessory brands like Mophie and InvisibleShield (both owned by Zagg) are already on the case.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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EU signals deeper investigation of Google Fitbit deal – Financial Times

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The EU is examining whether Google’s proposed $2.1bn takeover of the fitness-tracking company Fitbit will give the company more data to entrench its search engine and advertising businesses, as consumer groups called for the deal to be blocked.

EU regulators have sent two questionnaires, adding up to around 60 pages, asking Google and Fitbit’s rivals whether the deal will damage competition, disadvantage other fitness tracking apps in Google’s Play Store, or give Google more profiling data to improve its online search and advertising businesses.

The questionnaires also ask rivals to assess the impact of the deal on Google’s growing digital healthcare business.

Separately, 20 consumer groups, including Europe’s umbrella consumer organisation BEUC and the Consumer Federation of America, issued a warning about the deal on Thursday.

“Regulators must assume that Google will in practice utilise the entirety of Fitbit’s currently independent unique, highly sensitive data set in combination with its own, particularly as this could increase its profits, or they must impose strict and enforceable limitations on data use,” they said, in a joint statement.

The detail of the questions posed by the EU suggests that Brussels is gearing up for an extended investigation and may block the transaction, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The EU has until July 20 to make a decision after the end of the initial phase of the investigation, and could waive the deal, extend the investigation or ask for concessions.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission raised concerns last month that the deal could lead to a strengthening of Google’s position.

“Past acquisitions by Google, of both start-ups and mature companies like Fitbit, have further entrenched Google’s position,” said Rod Sims, the Australian watchdog’s chair, last month. “The access to user data available to Google has made it so valuable to advertisers that it faces only limited competition.” 

The Australian authority said it is looking into the “uniqueness and potential value” that Fitbit’s data would give Google. 

“The risk is that Google would extend its empire of consumer data also into vital medical data and digital medical services undergo some kind of consumerisation rather than being available to the wider medical community,” said an antitrust expert in Brussels with direct knowledge of the deal.

At the time the deal was announced, Rick Osterloh, senior vice-president for devices and services at Google, said the company “will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data.”

Google said: “Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data.

“Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. And we do not sell personal information to anyone.”

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