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The Morning After: Monday, July 31st 2017

Look up from your darn phone.
CBS Philly

Hey, good morning!

Welcome to the new week. Over the weekend, we talked about our new robot friends, HTC's return to flagship smartphone form and fines for walking while texting -- if you're in Honolulu.

They only want your love (and occasionally some anonymized metadata.)
Who needs friends when robots are this sociable?

From social robots to military tools, where do you draw the line? How do you add personality to a robot, and why would you?

Don't let its style overshadow its substance.
HTC U11 review: more than just gimmicks

We know it's shiny, but don't let its looks distract you. After a few underwhelming phones, HTC refined its smartphone formula and pushed out the U11, a gimmick-laden flagship actually worth using. The pressure-sensitive Edge Sense turns the sides of the phone into a one big convenience key, which is handy but unimaginative. There are three virtual assistants to choose from, though most people will only ever use one. And that beautiful glass finish? Well, just be very careful with it. Despite all that, the U11 delivers true flagship-level performance, and an excellent camera experience, period, not just excellent for HTC. The build quality is generally fantastic, and HTC has finally made a handsome body that's also water-resistant. While this might sound like a mixed bag, the U11's strengths definitely outweigh its flaws.

It also requires you to link your phone number to chat apps.
Russia's censorship law bans proxies and VPNs

President Putin has signed a law that, as of November 1st, prohibits technology which lets you access banned websites, including virtual private networks and proxies. Internet providers will have to block websites hosting these tools. The measure is ostensibly meant to curb extremist content, but that's just pretext -- this is really about preventing Russians from seeing content that might be critical of Putin, not to mention communicating in secret.

Accordingly, the president has signed another law requiring that chat apps identify users through their phone numbers after January 1st, 2018. Some messaging clients already encourage you to link an account to a phone number, but this law makes it mandatory -- Facebook and others can't reject the idea even if they want to offer some kind of anonymity. As a reminder, the next Russian elections are set to be held in March 2018.

It didn't have much choice, but freedom of speech will suffer.
Apple pulls VPN apps following China crackdown

In other VPN news, ExpressVPN, Star VPN and other developers report that Apple has pulled their apps from the App Store in China for allegedly including "content that is illegal" in the country. Some clients are still on other platforms (including ExpressVPN, for now) while others remain, so it's not a uniform cull at this point. However, this is still a big blow to attempts to circumvent China's mounting internet censorship through encrypted communication -- not to mention companies that may have been depending on those apps for remote-work connections. Apple has issued a statement noting that it pulled the apps in response to Chinese rules requiring that VPN developers obtain a government license.

You'll risk a fine if you can't focus on crossing the street.

Honolulu is the first big US city to ban phone use at crosswalks

Honolulu has officially drawn a line in the sand -- it's the first major US city to pass a law that fines you for crossing the street while using your phone. As of October 25th, the Hawaiian burg can ask you to pay between $15 to $99 if you're caught looking at a mobile device while you're strutting the crosswalk. How much you pay depends on whether or not you're a repeat offender.

But wait, there's more...

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