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Google Updates Hangouts To Be More Enterprise-friendly

August 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google wants to help make your work day a bit more social and is taking its Google Hangouts into the business arena.

The company is trying to make it easier for enterprises to use Hangouts for face-to-face, if not in-person, meetings, according to Clay Bavor, vice president of product management for Google Apps.

The Hangouts feature, which was first introduced as part of Google+, comes to the enterprise as part of a slew of new features for Google Apps for Business customers.

Starting today, even non-Google+ users can use Hangouts at work. Any Google Apps customer can start or join a high-definition video meeting that connects up to 15 participants — from a computer or Chromebox for Meetings device. Google noted that the same ability will “soon” be available on smartphones and tablets.

“Hangouts is now covered under the same Terms of Service that support our other Google Apps for Business products, like Gmail and Drive,” wrote Bayor, in a blog post . “That means we’ve got your back with 24×7 phone support and a 99.9% guaranteed uptime, as well as ISO27001, SSAE 16/ISAE 4302 and SOC 2 certification. Additional enterprise integration with Google Apps Vault is coming by the end of the year.”

Taking Hangouts to the business community is another way for Google to get its foot in the door with enterprises. However, it’s also part of the company’s effort to push out Chromebox, Google’s Chrome OS-based corporate meeting device, to a bigger, and more business-minded, audience.

“In the coming months, we’ll be making Chromebox for Meetings work better in rooms of all shapes and sizes,” Bayor wrote. “In larger conference rooms, you can connect two displays to one Chromebox for meetings device to see your audience and project a presentation at the same time. And if you’ve ever wanted a dedicated setup for video meetings for your home, new personal calendar integration means you will be able to easily set up Chromebox for meetings outside the office.”

He added that IT administrators can better manage meetings directly from the Google Apps Admin Console, giving them options like remote starting, muting and ending a meeting.

“Google is moving into the enterprise, or at least trying to,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “I know Hangouts was introduced with Google+, but Hangouts is cleaner, more understandable, and more business-friendly, as a stand-alone chat, video-chat, video-conferencing application.”

Google is scheduled to hold a Hangout on Aug. 19 to go over the new features.

 

 

Researchers Warn USB Devices Can Be Used In New Hacking Schemes

August 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

USB devices such as mice, keyboards and thumb-drives may be used to hack into personal computers in a potential new class of attacks that evade all known security protections, a top computer researcher has revealed.

Karsten Nohl, chief scientist with Berlin’s SR Labs, noted that hackers could load malicioussoftware onto tiny, low-cost computer chips that control functions of USB devices but which have no built-in shields against tampering with their code.

“You cannot tell where the virus came from. It is almost like a magic trick,” said Nohl, whose research firm is known for uncovering major flaws in mobile phone technology.

The finding shows that bugs in software used to run tiny electronics components that are invisible to the average computer user can be extremely dangerous when hackers figure out how to exploit them. Security researchers have increasingly turned their attention to uncovering such flaws.

Nohl said his firm has performed attacks by writing malicious code onto USB control chips used in thumb drives and smartphones. Once the USB device is attached to a computer, the malicious software can log keystrokes, spy on communications and destroy data, he said.

Computers do not detect the infections when tainted devices are inserted into a PC because anti-virus programs are only designed to scan for software written onto memory and do not scan the “firmware” that controls the functioning of those devices, he said.

Nohl and Jakob Lell, a security researcher at SR Labs, will describe their attack method at next week’s Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas in a presentation titled: “Bad USB – On Accessories that Turn Evil.”

Thousands of security professionals gather at the annual conference to hear about the latest hacking techniques, including ones that threaten security of business computers, consumer electronics and critical infrastructure.

 

 

CSR Develops New SDK To Speed Up The IoT

August 1, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

CSR has launched a developer kit for its CSRmesh protocol, which allows an unlimited number of Bluetooth Smart enabled devices to be networked together and controlled from a smartphone, tablet or PC.

The kit includes development boards, a USB programmer and access to the software development kit (SDK), which includes example applications that aim to accelerate the development of new low-power connected Internet of Things (IoT) products, CSR said.

“We are seeing Bluetooth Smart underpinning many more products as the Internet-of-Things shifts from concept to reality,” said CSR IoT leader Rick Walker. “By launching the CSRmesh Development Kit we are equipping developers with the tools they need to innovate and take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the IoT. We are helping them to bring networked devices to market as quickly and simply as possible.”

CSRMesh, which combines a configuration and control protocol with CSR’s Bluetooth Smart devices including the CSR101x family, has already been adopted by several lighting manufacturers, including Samsung, for its smart bulb lighting solutions.

The CSRmesh protocol works by using Bluetooth Smart to send messages to other Bluetooth Smart devices in the network, which in turn relay them onward, allowing messages to be addressed to individual devices or groups of devices. It is also possible for devices to belong to multiple groups.

Control of the devices is via any smartphone or tablet that supports the Bluetooth Smart standard, or via standard control devices such as light switches or control panels that have been Bluetooth Smart enabled.

The SDK is initially offered with software supporting networked lighting applications, with updates for home automation and other IoT applications based on CSRmesh due later in the year.

The CSRmesh Development Kit is now available from selected CSR distributors from $299, or about £180, and features three CSRmesh Bluetooth Smart development boards, one USB programmer, batteries and a setup guide. Additional development boards can be purchased from $49 each, or about £30.

“Developers can also purchase additional CSRmesh Development Boards to expand their mesh development and testing,” CSR said. Below is a video of what is possible with CSRMesh for lighting.

Courtesy-TheInq

Audi Tests Self-driving Car In Florida

July 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Audi this week tested a self-driving car on a Tampa highway that had been recently designated as an automated driving and connected car test bed.

The car manufacturer demonstrated how its “Piloted” driving technology installed in an Audi A7 was able to handle driving functions on freeway conditions up to 40 mph.

Audi plans to begin offering the initial version of Piloted driving – called Traffic Jam Pilot – to the public within five years.

The ability to conduct research in the real-world conditions offered by Florida and the Expressway Authority is crucial to pre-production development, Audi said in a statement.

In 2012, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill that allowed the testing of autonomous vehicles in the state, making Florida one of only three states where autonomous vehicles can be piloted on some designated roads. Tampa’s Selmon Expressway, where the Audi A7 was piloted, was recently designated as an autonomous driving technology test bed.

California and Nevada have also passed legislation to allow self-driving vehicle testing on roadways.

 

 

Free iPhone App Available To Encrypt Voice Calls

July 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

An open-source project has released the first free application for the iPhone that scrambles voice calls, which would ward off government surveillance or eavesdropping by hackers.

Signal comes from Open Whisper Systems, who also created RedPhone and TextSecure, both Android applications that encrypt calls and text messages.

The application is compatible with RedPhone and eventually RedPhone and TextSecure will be combined in a single Android application and called Signal as well, according to a blog post.

Signal is notable for two reasons. First, it’s free. There are many voice call encryption products on the market for various platforms, most of which are not cheap and are aimed at enterprise users.

Second, Signal is open source code, meaning developers can look at the code and verify its integrity. That’s important because of concerns that software vendors have been pressured into adding “backdoors” into their products that could assist government surveillance programs.

The beauty of Signal is its simplicity. Setup requires verifying the device’s phone number through a one-time code that is sent by SMS. Signal displays only the contact details of the other user who has it installed.

It provides end-to-end encryption of voice calls over a data connection. Signal displays two words on a screen during a call, which are meant to be verified with the party on the other end to ensure a man-in-the-middle attack isn’t underway.

Signal adds to a growing number of mobile encryption offerings from software vendors. Silent Circle, based in Washington, D.C., offers encrypted calling and texting services for a monthly subscription, and is a partner in Geneva-based SGP Technologies which makes the BlackPhone, a security minded device released last month.

 

Netflix Strikes Deal With AT&T To Ensure Smooth Streaming

July 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Video streaming service Netflix has agreed to pay U.S. broadband provider AT&T Inc to ensure smooth delivery of Netflix content to Internet users, according to a statement made by both companies

The announcement of the deal, put together in May, comes as Netflix has been waging a public campaign against such fees, which they present as tolls, and calling on the Federal Communications Commission to review the market.

Having brokered this so-called interconnection agreement, AT&T and Netflix are now working to build out new network connections for Netflix content to be delivered directly to AT&T’s servers “to improve the viewing experience for our mutual subscribers,” the companies’ representatives said.

“We’re now beginning to turn up the connections, a process that should be complete in the coming days,” AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said.

This marks the third such agreement Netflix struck with major U.S. Internet service providers in recent months after it revealed similar traffic exchange agreements with Verizon Communications Inc in April and Comcast Corp in February.

Consumers have also complained to the FCC about an ongoing spat between Netflix and major Internet providers, saying they are experiencing slow download speeds for Netflix video.

Both sides accuse each other of causing a slowdown in Internet speeds by the way they route traffic.

Financial terms of such interconnection agreements are secret. The FCC last month moved to privately review the current deals, though did not indicate specific plans to regulate that part of the market.

 

Fifty Percent Of Android Apps May Have Security Holes

July 31, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Researchers that discovered the Heartbleed security vulnerability have warned that over half of the 50 most popular Android mobile apps have inherited security vulnerabilities through the irresponsible recycling of software libraries.

Codenomicon, which coined the term “Heartbleed” upon discovering the OpenSSL flaw, will name and shame app developers later this month when it publishes its findings on those that neglected robust security practices.

Preliminary results from a study by Codenomicon revealed that over half of the 50 most popular Android apps submit the user’s Android ID to third party advertising networks without permission.

The study found that one in 10 apps send either a device’s IMEI code or location data to a third party, one in 10 apps connected to more than two ad networks, and surprisingly, one even sends the user’s mobile phone number.

It also found that over 30 percent of the apps transmit private data in plain text and plenty more are not encrypting the transfer of this data.

Codenomicon chief security specialist Olli Jarva, told ITnews that 80 to 90 percent of mobile app software is made up of reused libraries, most of which are available under open source, and that was because developers “did not want to invest in reinventing the wheel” with every app that they release.

“We’re seeing the end products inherit vulnerabilities – sometimes it’s just poor software design or logic errors in implementations, and sometimes those bugs are identified and patched. Sometimes, like in the case of Heartbleed, they are not identified for two years.”

Jarva suggested that some developers “act intentionally”, which is even more worrying.

“Some people might have been providing a vulnerability on purpose in order to do something nasty once the code has been distributed,” he added. “Who are they working with? Do they have side-line jobs somewhere else? The developers might be getting their dollars from ad networks.”

Heartbleed is considered the worst thing to happen to the internet since selfies, and web servers are still suffering from the fallout of the Heartbleed vulnerability.

Shaking the industry like a bear might a salmon, Heartbleed caused most companies to come forward and issue alerts and patches. Some laggard servers remain though, and according to security researchers over 300,000 are still vulnerable to exploits.

In the wake of the Heartbleed bug, the Linux Foundation founded the Core Infrastructure Initative, financially supported by the industry, with a remit to ensure that SSL connections remain safe from another similar vulnerability.

Courtesy-TheInq

Huawei’s Smartphones Gaining Ground, Sees 62% Rise In Devices Shipped

July 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei Technologies shipped 62% more smartphones in the first half of 2014 than the same period last year, with sales to some countries outside its home turf doubling or even tripling.

It shipped smartphone 34.3 million units, boosted by sales of flagship phones the Ascend Mate 2 and the Ascend P7, it said on Tuesday. In the second quarter alone it shipped 20.6 million units, an 85% year-over-year increase.

Much of that growth is coming from emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, where its smartphone shipments are doubling or even tripling compared to the previous year, the company added.

Other Chinese vendors are also reporting booming smartphone sales, but Huawei ships a higher proportion of its production to foreign markets, said Melissa Chau, an analyst with research firm IDC.

“It has the most number of shipments outside of China, roughly 40%,” she estimated. “If you look at Lenovo, ZTE, or Xiaomi, they are nowhere near that.”

In this year’s second quarter, Huawei will hold on to its ranking as the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor, behind leader Samsung Electronics and second place Apple, Chau added.

In foreign markets, Huawei is driving growth by selling low-end models, while flagship products such as the Ascend P7 find most of their buyers in mainland China, Chau said.

Huawei has ambitions to rival Apple and Samsung in the smartphone arena, so is spending more on marketing and raising brand awareness. But its market share in this year’s first quarter was only 4.7%, still far away from second place Apple, which had a 15.2% share.

“They are making some progress, but they are still not anywhere near being a super top-tier player,” Chau said. Android smartphones are also becoming commoditized, which risks dampening Huawei’s attempts to stand out from the rest of the competition, she added.

 

Facebook To Mandate Messenger App For Mobile Chat

July 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

If you like to send messages via Facebook when you’re on the move, be prepared to download a new app.

Facebook has confirmed that it will be deleting the messaging feature from its mobile app over the next few days, and requiring people to use its standalone Messenger app instead.

The change follows through on a plan announced in April and for now affects Facebook’s mobile app on iOS and Android. You’ll be able to send and receive messages on the desktop as before.

“In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email.

The company’s goal is to make Messenger the best mobile service for messaging, she said, and avoid any confusion that might arise from having two mobile products for the same thing.

The move may also greatly increase the number of people who use Facebook Messenger.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s earnings call last week that Facebook was looking to turn Messenger into an important business.

Messenger has more than 200 million monthly active users — just under a fifth of Facebook’s total user base. As well as sending text messages, it can handle Internet-based voice calls, group chat, and exchanging photos and short videos.

Facebook started the switch to Messenger a few months ago in a handful of countries, mostly in Europe, and the results have been positive, it said.

Still, it’s unclear how the change will sit with people who’ve grown accustomed to using the main Facebook app for messaging. You’ll still be notified in the Facebook app when you receive a message, but you’ll have to open Messenger to view it and respond.

Facebook says the change will help improve the performance of both the apps over time. It’s already working to improve Messenger; the company recently hired former PayPal president David Marcus as part of a push to build new capabilities for Messenger, possibly including payments.

 

 

OkCupid Admits Experimenting On Customers

July 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

OkCupid, a top U.S. dating website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said, weeks after Facebook Inc similarly admitted to misleading users in a psychological study.

“When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are,” co-founder Christian Rudder wrote in a blog post. “Even when they should be wrong for each other.”

Conversely, couples told they were bad matches, even when OkCupid’s algorithm showed the opposite, were less likely to exchange four messages. Exchanging four messages is an OkCupid measure for gauging romantic interest.

In the post, titled “We Experiment on Human Beings!” Rudder explained the tests helped the company refine its product. He did not respond to an email asking how many users were tested.

“Most ideas are bad,” he wrote. “Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”

An IAC spokeswoman said OkCupid planned to continue with the experiments, which are known in the business as A/B testing.

But experimenting on users without their consent could cost the company credibility, said Irina Raicu, director of the Internet ethics program at Santa Clara University.

“They are messing with emotions and with communications,” she said. “That’s different than other things we are A/B tested about.”

The experiment drew heavy criticism online. In a tweet, University of Pennsylvania computer scientist Matt Blaze suggested a few new clauses for online user licensing agreements:“We reserve the right to induce despair” and “You agree that there will be no love, except the love of Big Brother.”

 

 

Phone-unlocking Bill Moves One Step Closer To Law

July 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A bill that allows consumers to unlock their mobile phones for use on other carriers passed its last hurdle in Congress last week, opening the way for it to become law once it is signed by President Barack Obama.

Senate Bill 517 overturns a January 2013 decision by the Library of Congress that ruled the unlocking of phones by consumers fell afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It had previously been permitted under an exception to the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, which are generally aimed at cracking of digital rights management technology.

Cellphones and smartphones are typically supplied to consumers with a software lock that restricts their use to a single wireless carrier. Removing that lock — the process of “unlocking” the phone — means it can be used on the networks of competing carriers. In the U.S., this is most often done with handsets that work on the AT&T or T-Mobile networks, which share a common technology, but is also popular with consumers who want to take their phones overseas and use foreign networks rather than roaming services.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act has made fast progress through Congress. It was passed by the Senate on July 16, just a week after it was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on Friday by unanimous vote in the House of Representatives. It now waits to be signed into law.

In addition to making the unlocking process legal under copyright law, the bill also directs the librarian of Congress to determine whether other portable devices with wireless capability, such as tablets, should be eligible for unlocking.

“It took 19 months of activism and advocacy, but we’re finally very close to consumers regaining the right to unlock the phones they’ve legally bought,” said Sina Khanifar, who organized an online petition that kicked off the push to have the Library of Congress decision overturned. The petition attracted more than 114,000 signatures on the White House’s “We The People” site.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this bill finally become law — it’s been a long road against powerful, entrenched interests — but it’s great to see citizen advocacy work,” he said in a statement.

 

Amazon To Offer 3D Printing

July 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and other items from third-party vendors using a new personalization option on its website.

Most of the more than 200 items available on the company’s new 3D printed products store, which was rolled out on Monday, can be customized using a new feature that allows users to rotate and change the item they are viewing.

Before it is printed by one of Amazon’s sellers, users can customize a product like as a bobble head figure by changing its skin and eye color, hair style and outfit, Amazon said.

“The customization is something we’re keenly interested in,” said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon marketplace sales, speaking in an interview. “We’ll always look for new applications for that.”

Amazon, which has more than 240 million users, has expanded its marketplaces division to include new areas such as fine art and wine. It is part of Amazon’s larger investment into new areas like mobile services and original content that led to its larger-than-expected second-quarter loss last week.

The new printing option taps into a broader “Maker movement” among tech entrepreneurs in northern California, and to some extent Europe, that is focused on customizing 3D objects rather than development software or mobile applications.

3D printers have gained in popularity on Amazon Supply, a wholesale site for businesses. That interest led Amazon to offer customers an 3D print option, Schindler-Carter said.

 

Is The Demand For DRAM Slowing?

July 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Hynix has reported a slowing down of growth in the memory chip profits as it posted its first drop in quarterly profit in two years, casting doubt on medium-term revenue growth.

SK Hynix President Kim Joon-ho told analysts that the problem was a change in product mix and a transition to more complex production technology will crimp third-quarter shipments growth for the key DRAM business. Analysts are concerned that DRAM shipments growth will be increasingly limited in the latter half of the year, given the technology migration issues, which would lead to slower top-line growth. But Hong said such concerns were overblown, as limited shipments growth would help keep supply tight and support chip prices.

Hynix posted an operating profit of $1.07 billion for the April-June period which is not to be sneezed at. But that result was 2.7 percent below the same quarter a year earlier. The other problem is the rise in the value of the won, which toll on revenue, which fell 0.2 percent compared with the previous corresponding period. The currency on average gained more than 9 percent against the dollar during the April-June quarter from a year ago.

President Kim said growth in shipments of DRAM chips, mainly used in personal computers and servers, would slow to a mid-single-digit percent rate in the third quarter, from 13 percent in the April-June period. Shipments of NAND chips, typically used in mobile devices, would slow to a high 20 percent rate from 54 percent.

He said that DRAM market trends will remain favorable due to better-than-expected demand for personal computers as well as data centre-related server demand.

“The launch of new mobile products by major companies and the development of LTE-related demand in China will likely keep demand-side conditions firm,” he added.

Analysts played down concerns of a supply glut arising from the company’s plans for capital investment in the second half of 2015, and expected short-term earnings to remain firm.

Courtesy-Fud

 

goTenna Debuts Personal Antenna In Case Of Disasters

July 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A Brooklyn-based startup called goTenna has developed a portable antenna that will come to the rescue when cellular service is unavailable.

The portable antenna connects to a smartphone via a Bluetooth Low Energy link. Once connected, users with either an iOS or Android app can then send text messages through the antenna. (The recipient must also have a goTenna, and consequently the product is sold in pairs.)

The device uses the 151MHz-154MHz frequencies, with range depending on location. In a densely populated place like Manhattan, that range could be less than a mile. In more open spaces, up to 50 miles is possible. The antenna, which takes a USB-delivered charge, will store messages and hold them until a connection can be made.

Businesses employ a range of backup communications technologies, including long-range satellite phones and ham radios, as well as shorter range walkie-talkies. The goTenna could serve as an alternative to a walkie-talkie — and even offers some advantages over other options. For example, its messages are encrypted and private, a separate device isn’t needed, and people can use the goTenna system with their smartphone interface.

The goTenna also has the ability to “shout” a message by delivering it to all goTenna users who have opted in to receive a broadcast.

“That fact that we are totally decentralized means that in many ways it can be a backup to your backup,” said goTenna CEO Daniela Perdomo, who co-founded the company with her brother, Jorge Perdomo, goTenna’s CTO.

In addition to using goTenna as an emergency tool, Perdomo said people could use the technology as a means of communicating while they’re traveling, when they’re taking part in outdoor recreation activities, or when they’re involved in any type of situation that requires private communication. The antenna uses a Lithium-ion battery and is estimated to last two to three days with normal use, or as long as 30 hours if it’s on continuously.

Perdomo said the outages created by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 prompted her to imagine ways smartphones could be made to directly communicate with other phones.

The goTenna will ship in late fall, but a pair of the devices can be preordered for $149.99.

 

 

 

Verizon To Begin Slowing Down Data Speeds For Unlimited Subscribers

July 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communication Inc’s high speed wireless customers who have the company’s legacy unlimited data plans may begin experiencing slower speeds starting Oct. 1, the company said on Friday.

The announcement comes as wireless carriers attempt to shift data-hungry subscribers onto tiered plans, which charge customers for individual data packages.

Verizon will slow services for the top 5 percent of data users who are on unlimited plans in places where the network is experiencing high demand, the company announced on its website.

The policy will impact customers who consume more than 4.7 gigabytes in a single billing period who are on unlimited plans and who have fulfilled their minimum contract terms and are subscribing to service on a month-to-month basis.

Users might experience slower speeds when streaming high-definition video or during real-time online gaming, the company said.

Customers on the company’s tiered data plans will not be affected.

The policy is currently in effect for unlimited subscribers on the 3G network, but will be expanded to its 4G, higher speed network in October.

Verizon stopped offering unlimited data plans in 2012.