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New Huawei Phone Has a 5x Optical Zoom, Thanks To a Periscope Lens
Posted by News Fetcher on March 27 '19 at 05:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cool-but-slightly-creepy department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Huawei officially announced the Huawei P30 Pro smartphone today. While it has a new Huawei-made SoC, an in-screen optical fingerprint reader, and lots of other high-end features, the highlight is definitely the camera's optical zoom, which is up to a whopping 5x. Not digital zoom. Real, optical zoom. Space, of course, is at a premium in smartphones. Imagine a smartphone sitting face down, and you would have to fit a vertical stack of the display, the CMOS sensor, and the lens all in about an 8mm height. There is just not a lot of room. But what if we didn't have to stack all the components vertically? The trick to Huawei's 5x optical zoom is that it uses a periscope design.

< article continued at Slashdot's cool-but-slightly-creepy department >

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Bank of America Tech Chief Is Skeptical of Blockchain Even Though The Company Has the Most Patents For It
Posted by News Fetcher on March 27 '19 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's show-me-the-money department:
Bank of America tech and operations chief Cathy Bessant said she is bearish on blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies. "I will be curious to see what the actual volume of usage is on the JPM Coin in a year," she said. Slashdot reader technocrattobe shares a report from CNBC: "What I am is open-minded," Bessant said recently in an interview at the bank's New York tower. "In my private scoreboard, in the closet, I am bearish." Bessant is wading into the debate about the blockchain, whose proponents have claimed will be as significant as the internet. A blockchain is an encrypted database that runs on multiple computers, potentially cutting out the need for centralized authorities like banks or governments to settle transactions between parties.

< article continued at Slashdot's show-me-the-money department >

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Mike Pence Tells NASA To Accelerate Human Missions To the Moon 'By Any Means Necessary'
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's full-steam-ahead department:
Today at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is committed to sending humans back to the Moon by 2024, four years earlier than NASA's previous target of 2028. The Verge reports: Pence, speaking at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, noted that the administration will meet this goal "by any means necessary." He called on NASA to adopt new policies and argued that the space agency would need to embrace "a new mindset that begins with setting bold goals and staying on schedule." To do that, he said the administration may consider ditching some of NASA's current contractors -- which are currently developing new vehicles to take humans into deep space -- and using commercially developed rockets instead. "If commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be," said Pence. "Urgency must be our watch word."

However, Pence offered few clear recommendations and changes that would help to accelerate NASA's return, apart from potentially switching rockets and contractors. "It was rhetoric about 'by all means possible' and 'we'll provide the resources necessary' and 'leadership is essential,'" John Logsdon, a space policy expert at George Washington University, tells The Verge. "I mean, they're all good words. But the devil's in the details."

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Bill That Would Restore Net Neutrality Moves Forward Despite Telecom's Best Efforts To Kill It
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's steady-as-she-goes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Last month, Democrats introduced a simple three page bill that would do one thing: restore FCC net neutrality rules and the agency's authority over ISPs, both stripped away by a hugely-controversial decision by the agency in late 2017. Tuesday morning, the Save the Internet Act passed through a key House committee vote and markup session -- despite some last-minute efforts by big telecom to weaken the bill.

"Net neutrality is coming back with a vengeance," said Evan Greer, deputy director of consumer group Fight for the Future said in a statement. "Politicians are slowly learning that they can't get away with shilling for big telecom anymore," Greer said. "We're harnessing the power of the Internet to save it, and any lawmaker who stands in our way will soon face the wrath of their constituents, who overwhelmingly want lawmakers to restore these basic protections." Greer told Motherboard that several last minute amendments were introduced by lawmakers during the markup period in an attempt to water down the bill, but all were pulled in the wake of widespread public interest in the hearing. "It seems like the GOP retreated a bit given after the huge swell of public support," said Greer, who told Motherboard that 300,000 people watched the organization's livestream of the markup process. That attention "really emboldened the Democrats and shored up the ones that were wobbling," Greer said.

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First All-Female Spacewalk Canceled Because NASA Doesn't Have Two Suits That Fit
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-safe-than-sorry department:
The first all-female spacewalk scheduled for Friday has been cancelled by NASA (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) because they don't have two spacesuits that fit the female astronauts. According to The New York Times, Anne C. McClain and Christina H. Koch both need to wear a medium-size torso component, but only one is readily available at the International Space Station. From the report: The mission itself is unchanged. On Friday, two astronauts will venture outside of the space station on a six-hour mission to install massive lithium-ion batteries that will help to power the research laboratory. Ms. Koch is still scheduled to participate, along with her fellow astronaut Nick Hague; Ms. McClain did her first spacewalk last week. But the first women-only venture outside of the confines of the space station will have to happen on another day. "After consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station," NASA said in a statement.

Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman for NASA, said in an interview on Monday that there were already two medium-size hard upper torsos -- "essentially the shirt of the spacesuit," according to NASA -- at the space station. But there were a couple of issues. One was that Ms. McClain had thought she would be able to work in a large-size torso, but after her spacewalk last Friday, she wore a medium-size torso and learned that it fit her better. Ms. Koch also uses the same size. And of the two medium-size torsos available, one has yet to be properly configured for a spacewalk. It would take hours of crew labor -- not to mention some additional risk -- to fix that in time for Friday. Instead of doing that, NASA decided to simply switch out the astronauts. In the end, both women will have done a spacewalk -- just not together.

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Engineers Build Teeny-Tiny Bluetooth Transmitter That Runs On Less Than 1 Milliwatt
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's eeentsy-weentsy department:
Engineers at the University of Michigan have built the first millimeter-scale stand-alone device that meets Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) specifications. "Consuming just 0.6 milliwatts during transmission, it would broadcast for 11 years using a typical 5.8-mm coin battery," reports IEEE Spectrum. "Such a millimeter-scale BLE radio would allow these ant-sized sensors to communicate with ordinary equipment, even a smartphone." From the report: The transmitter chip, which debuted last month at IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference, had to solve two problems. The first is power consumption, and the second is the size of the antenna. An ordinary transmitter circuit requires a tunable RF oscillator to generate the frequency, a power amplifier to boost its amplitude, and an antenna to radiate the signal. The Michigan team combined the oscillator and the antenna in a way that made the amplifier unnecessary. They called their invention a power oscillator. The key part of an oscillator is the resonant tank circuit: an inductor and a capacitor. Energy sloshes back and forth between the inductor's magnetic field and the capacitor's electric field at a resonant frequency determined by the capacitance and inductance. In the new circuit, the team used the antenna itself as the inductor in the resonant tank. Because it was acting as an inductor, the antenna radiated using changing magnetic field instead of an electric field; that meant it could be more compact.

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Microsoft: Windows 10 Devices Open To 'Full Compromise' From Huawei PC Driver
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's nasty-bugs department:
According to ZDNet, researchers at Microsoft have discovered a buggy Huawei utility that could have given attackers a cheap way to undermine the security of the Windows kernel. From the report: Microsoft has now detailed how it found a severe local privilege escalation flaw in the Huawei PCManager driver software for its MateBook line of Windows 10 laptops. Thanks to Microsoft's work, the Chinese tech giant patched the flaw in January. As Microsoft researchers explain, third-party kernel drivers are becoming more attractive to attackers as a side-door to attacking the kernel without having to overcome its protections using an expensive zero-day kernel exploit in Windows. The flaw in Huawei's software was detected by new kernel sensors that were implemented in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, aka version 1809.

The kernel sensors are meant to address the difficulty of detecting malicious code running in the kernel and are designed to detect user-space asynchronous procedure call (APC) code injection from the kernel. Microsoft Defender ATP anti-malware uses these sensors to detect actions caused by kernel code that may inject code into user-mode. Huawei's PCManager triggered Defender ATP alerts on multiple Windows 10 devices, prompting Microsoft to launch an investigation. [...] The investigation led the researcher to the executable MateBookService.exe. Due to a flaw in Huawei's 'watchdog' mechanism for HwOs2Ec10x64.sys, an attacker is able to create a malicious instance of MateBookService.exe to gain elevated privileges. The flaw can be used to make code running with low privileges read and write to other processes or to kernel space, leading to a "full machine compromise."

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It Sure Looks Like Google's $599 Celeron Pixel Slate is Dead
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 04:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's RIP department:
Two variants of the Pixel Slate, a tablet-laptop hybrid that Google unveiled last year, have been "out of stock" for months now, leading many to believe that Google may have quietly gotten rid of them. From a report: [The Pixel Slate that are powered by the Celeron processor] are nowhere to be seen. They've been out of stock on the Google Store -- the only place these models were very briefly available -- since shortly after launch, four months ago. The $599 and $699 versions of the Pixel Slate brought sub-iPad Pro pricing to Google's prosumer tablet, even if it turned out that the tablet itself beat the iPad in pretty much no sense that mattered. Marques Brownlee, typically known for his easy-going takes and willingness to embrace misunderstood tech products, basically called the cheaper Celeron Slate a turd. This was not a good look for Google. Shortly after that, the Celeron Pixel Slate showed up as sold out on the Google Store, and that status hasn't changed since.

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FTC Tells ISPs To Disclose Exactly What Information They Collect On Users and What It's For
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's show-and-tell department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The Federal Trade Commission, in what could be considered a prelude to new regulatory action, has issued an order to several major internet service providers requiring them to share every detail of their data collection practices. The information could expose patterns of abuse or otherwise troubling data use against which the FTC -- or states -- may want to take action. The letters requesting info went to Comcast, Google, T-Mobile, and both the fixed and wireless sub-companies of Verizon and AT&T. These "represent a range of large and small ISPs, as well as fixed and mobile Internet providers," an FTC spokesperson said. I'm not sure which is mean to be the small one, but welcome any information the agency can extract from any of them.

To be clear, the FTC already has consumer protection rules in place and could already go after an internet provider if it were found to be abusing the privacy of its users -- you know, selling their location to anyone who asks or the like. (Still no action there, by the way.) But the evolving media and telecom landscape, in which we see enormous companies devouring one another to best provide as many complementary services as possible, requires constant reevaluation. As the agency writes in a press release: "The FTC is initiating this study to better understand Internet service providers' privacy practices in light of the evolution of telecommunications companies into vertically integrated platforms that also provide advertising-supported content." The report provides this example as to the kind of situation the FTC is concerned about: "If Verizon wants to offer not just the connection you get on your phone, but the media you request, the ads you are served, and the tracking you never heard of, it needs to show that these businesses are not somehow shirking rules behind the scenes."
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UPS Is Using Drones To Transport Medical Supplies Between Hospitals
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's improving-efficiency department:
UPS has partnered with autonomous drone company Matternet and hospital WakeMed in Raleigh, North Carolina, to test a new drone delivery service for transporting medical samples to nearby facilities. The FAA is overseeing the program. CNBC reports: UPS said the service will utilize Matternet's M2 "quadcopter" drone, which can carry medical samples of up to 5 pounds as far as 12.5 miles. The program will begin with "numerous planned daily revenue flights at the WakeMed Raleigh campus," UPS said. The drone delivery service aims to replace WakeMed's reliance on a fleet of courier cars, which currently transports most of the hospital's medical samples. Using a UPS "secure drone container," WakeMed employees can load medical specimens like blood samples and send them quickly to a nearby WakeMed facility.

Matternet has completed "more than 3,000 flights for healthcare systems in Switzerland," UPS added. The WakeMed program is also under the FAA's broader effort called the "Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program," which "aims to test practical applications of drones by partnering local governments with private sector companies."

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How Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon Warped the Hyperlink
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 03:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's my-way-or-highway department:
The concept of the hyperlink was first outlined over 70 years ago and eventually became a central part of the web. But 30 years since the invention of the world wide web, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have skewed the original ambitions for hyperlinks, who they are for and how far they can lead you. From a feature story: The impact that Google's PageRank algorithms have had on how the commercial web chooses to deploy hyperlinks can be seen in just about any SEO (search engine optimisation) blog. Publishers and businesses are encouraged to prioritize internal links over external links that may boost the competition in Google's rankings. "Since the very moment Google came on the scene, links moved from being the defining characteristic of the web, to being a battleground. Google's core insight was that you could treat every link as, essentially, a vote for the site," says Adam Tinworth, a digital publishing strategist. Tinworth explains that Google tries to minimize the effect of these 'unnatural linking patterns', which includes comment spam and 'guest posts', but it remains part of "how the shadier side of the SEO industry operates."

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ASUS Releases Fix For ShadowHammer Malware Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 01:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bandaid-applied department:
Iwastheone shares a report from Engadget: ASUS may have inadvertently pushed malware to some of its computers through its update tool, but it at least it has a fix ready to go. The PC maker has released a new version of its Live Update software for laptops that addresses the ShadowHammer backdoor attack. It also promised "multiple security verification mechanisms" to reduce the chances of further attacks, and started using an "enhanced end-to-end encryption mechanism." There are upgrades to the behind-the-scenes server system to prevent future attacks, ASUS added. The company simultaneously reiterated the narrow scope of ShadowHammer, noting that the malware targeted a "very small and specific user group." It's believed to be an Advanced Persistent Threat -- that is, a state-backed assault against organizations rather than everyday users. Other ASUS devices weren't affected, according to a notice. While the fix is reassuring, it also raises questions as to why the systems weren't locked down earlier. Update tools are prime targets for hackers precisely because they're both trusted and have deep access to the operating system -- tight security is necessary to prevent an intruder from hijacking the process.

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Judge Recommends Import Ban On iPhones After Latest Apple Vs. Qualcomm Verdict
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 01:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The latest chapter in the ongoing and messy Apple versus Qualcomm legal battle might mean a U.S. import ban on some iPhone models. A U.S. trade judge has found Apple guilty of infringing on two Qualcomm patents related to power management and data download speeds. As a result, the judge -- International Trade Commission Judge MaryJoan McNamara -- says some iPhone models containing competing Intel modems might be blocked from shipping from China, where they're manufactured, to the U.S. The judgment is still pending review by the ITC. Qualcomm is expecting another ruling in a second case it brought to the ITC later today that is not expected to include an import ban on iPhones. Regardless, this ruling is another blow to Apple, which, earlier this month, was found to have infringed on three separate Qualcomm patents in one of many other legal skirmishes playing out between the two companies. Next month the two companies will square off in court to discuss Qualcomm's alleged anti-competitive licensing strategies and the patent royalties it claims Apple owes for disputing the terms of their long-standing relationship.

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Google Launches Global Council To Advise on AI and Tech Ethics
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
Google announced today that it has formed an external advisory group -- dubbed the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) -- that is tasked with "considering some of the most complex challenges in AI," including facial recognition and fairness in machine learning. From a report: The council, which is slated to publish a report at the end of 2019, includes technology experts, digital ethicists, and people with public policy backgrounds, Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president for global affairs, said at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology conference. The group is meant to provide recommendations for Google and other companies and researchers working in areas such as facial recognition software, a form of automation that has prompted concerns about racial bias and other limitations. "We want to have the most informed and thoughtful conversations we can," Walker said on stage at the MIT Technology Review event in San Francisco. "We want to sit down with the council and see what agenda they want to set."

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Trump Administration Dims Rule On Energy Efficient Lightbulbs
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: If it's been a few years since you shopped for a lightbulb, you might find yourself confused. Those controversial curly-cue ones that were cutting edge not that long ago? Gone. (Or harder to find.) Thanks to a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush, shelves these days are largely stocked with LED bulbs that look more like the traditional pear-shaped incandescent version but use just one-fifth the energy. A second wave of lightbulb changes was set to happen. But now the Trump administration wants to undo an Obama-era regulation designed to make a wide array of specialty lightbulbs more energy efficient.

At issue here are bulbs such as decorative globes used in bathrooms, reflectors in recessed lighting, candle-shaped lights and three-way lightbulbs. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that, collectively, these account for about 2.7 billion light sockets, nearly half the conventional sockets in use in the U.S. At the very end of the Obama administration, the Department of Energy decided these specialty bulbs should also be subject to efficiency requirements under the 2007 law. The lighting industry objected and sued to overturn the decision. [...] NEMA argued that Congress never intended for the law to apply to all these other lightbulbs. After President Trump took office the Energy Department agreed and proposed to reverse the agency's previous decision. Critics say if the reversal is finalized it will mean higher energy bills for consumers and more pollution.

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Google Makes Emails More Dynamic With AMP For Email
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Google today officially launched AMP for Email, its effort to turn emails from static documents into dynamic, web page-like experiences. From a report: AMP for Email is coming to Gmail, but other major email providers like Yahoo Mail, Outlook and Mail.ru will also support AMP emails. It's been more than a year since Google first announced this initiative. Even by Google standards, that's a long incubation phase, though there's also plenty of backend work necessary to make this feature work.

The promise of AMP for Email is that it'll turn basic messages into a surface for actually getting things done. "Over the past decade, our web experiences have changed enormously -- evolving from static flat content to interactive apps -- yet email has largely stayed the same with static messages that eventually go out of date or are merely a springboard to accomplishing a more complex task," Gmail product manager Aakash Sahney writes. "If you want to take action, you usually have to click on a link, open a new tab, and visit another website." With AMP for Email, those messages become interactive. That means you'll be able to RSVP to an event right from the message, fill out a questionnaire, browse through a store's inventory or respond to a comment -- all without leaving your web-based email client.

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Dream Market, the Top Dark Web Marketplace, Will Shut Down Next Month
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's market-movements department:
Dream Market, today's top dark web marketplace, today announced plans to shut down on April 30. From a report: The announcement came on the same day Europol, FBI, and DEA officials announced tens of arrests and a massive crackdown on dark web drug trafficking. The timing of the four announcements immediately sent most of Dream Market's users and dark web threat intel analysts into a frenzy of theories that law enforcement might have already seized the site and are now running a honeypot operation. Their fears are based on a similar event from June 2017 when Dutch police took over Hansa Market and ran the site for a month while collecting evidence on the portal's users. Law enforcement later used passwords collected from Hansa Market users to gain access to accounts on other dark web marketplaces.

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Oculus VR Founder on Recently Unveiled Oculus Rift S: I Can't Use it, and Neither Can You.
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR and designer of the Oculus Rift, shares his thoughts on the recently unveiled Oculus Rift S: Rift S is very cool! It takes concepts that have been around for years and puts them into a fully functional product for the first time. Sure, sure, I see people complaining about how Rift S is worse than CV1 concerning audio quality, display characteristics, and ergonomics -- some of the tradeoffs are real, some are imaginary, and people should really wait for it to come out before passing final judgement. [...] My IPD (interpupillary distance, the distance between my eyes) is a hair under 70mm and slightly skewed to the right side of my face. One of my best friends has an IPD of 59mm. I don't know what your IPD is, but both of us were perfectly served by the IPD adjustment mechanism on Rift CV1, a mechanism that was an important part of our goal to be compatible with male and female users from 5th to 95th percentile. Anyone within the supported range (about 58mm to 72mm) got a perfect optical experience -- field curvature on the focal plane was matched, geometric distortion was properly corrected, world scale was at the right size, and pupil swim was more or less even.

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Multiple US Airlines Hit By Flight Check-in and Booking Systems Outage
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's outage-report department:
A computer system that airlines use for check-in kiosks, booking and more was experiencing issues on Tuesday, apparently affecting multiple air carriers. From a report: There were widespread reports on social media of air passengers inconvenienced by the outage, with long lines at airports across the country. Sabre Airline Solutions released this statement shortly before noon Eastern Time: "We are aware of the issues facing some of our customers. Recovery is in progress. We apologize for the inconvenience." The company was tweeting that statement to people who took note of the outage. American Airlines flagged the issue, saying in a statement that Sabre was "experiencing a technical issue that is impacting multiple carriers, including American Airlines. Sabre is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and we apologize to our customers for the inconvenience." American later said that the issue with Sabre's system "has been resolved."

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Firefox Lockbox Comes To Android To Ease Password Pain
Posted by News Fetcher on March 26 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-products department:
If you're a Firefox true believer, or even just a Firefox user, your password struggles just got a little easier with the release of Firefox Lockbox for Android devices. From a report: The password manager, based on login information already in Firefox, makes it easier to sign into apps as well. It integrates with login autocomplete systems in both Apple's iOS and Google's Android software, Mozilla said. It's not as fancy as password managers like LastPass, BitWarden, 1Password and Dashlane, and the only browser it works with is Firefox. On the other hand, if you're already in the Firefox world, it's basically already set up for you. There's no migration process as with dedicated password managers.

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