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Microsoft Touts New Power Saving Feature In Windows 10

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is touting operating system-wide power efficiencies in a recent preview of Windows 10, claiming that the technology will reduce notebook battery consumption by 11% on laptops equipped with the newest processors.

The technology, temporarily tagged as “Power Throttling,” was enabled on all copies of Windows 10 Insider build 16176, which Microsoft released Friday. Insider is the beta program Microsoft runs for both enthusiasts and businesses. The latter rely on Insider to learn how the OS will change for the next feature upgrade, as well as for testing the upgrade prior to deploying the final code when it is shipped several months later.

“With ‘Power Throttling,’ when background work is running, Windows places the CPU in its most energy efficient operating modes — work gets done, but the minimal possible battery is spent on that work,” Bill Karagounis, director of program management for Insider, said in a post to a company blog.

The CPU throttling is triggered on an app-specific basis by a detection system Microsoft integrated with the OS, said Karagounis. Like other such technologies, Microsoft’s is meant to recognize foreground tasks — such as active apps — as well as persistent applications, like music streaming applications, then give them full access to the processor. Other apps, or even individual processes within an app, that are classified as “background,” are restricted in how they impact the CPU’s power usage. For instance, they may not be allowed to kick the processor into its higher-frequency, higher-power, higher-consumption mode.

Power Throttling works only on Intel processors with that firm’s Speed Shift, a feature of sixth-generation and later CPUs, including “Skylake” and the newer “Kaby Lake.”

Recognizing that most personal computers are laptops and that battery longevity is a major factor in productivity, Microsoft has aggressively promoted Windows 10’s power savings, notably in the boosterism behind Edge, the OS’s default browser.

The Redmond, Wash. company isn’t working in a vacuum: Other operating systems also try to eke out more battery life by scaling back CPU use. Apple’s iOS, for instance, switches to a low-power mode when an iPhone or iPad battery reaches about 20% capacity. Among other things, the iOS mode halts background app refreshing and stops automatic email fetching.

Microsoft first added Power Throttling to Windows 10 in January, saying that it had turned it on for a subset of Insider-equipped devices as an experiment and promising to provide an update in mid-February. That update never appeared, hinting that Microsoft pulled it from inclusion in the then-upcoming Creators Update, the feature upgrade released April 11.

The first opportunity most users will have to apply Power Throttling will be with 2017’s second feature upgrade. Microsoft has not revealed a release timetable, but most experts expect it to appear this fall.

Bose Headphones Accused Of Spying On Users

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Bose Corp spies on its wireless headphone owners by using an app that tracks the music, podcasts and other audio they listen to, and violates their privacy rights by selling such data without permission, a lawsuit charged.

The complaint filed by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago seeks an injunction to stop Bose’s “wholesale disregard” for the privacy of customers who download its free Bose Connect app from Apple Inc or Google Play stores to their smartphones.

“People should be uncomfortable with it,” Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, said in an interview. “People put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share.”

Bose did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment on the proposed class action case. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has said annual sales top $3.5 billion.

Zak’s lawsuit was the latest to accuse companies of trying to boost profit by quietly amassing customer information, and then selling it or using it to solicit more business.

After paying $350 for his QuietComfort 35 headphones, Zak said he took Bose’s suggestion to “get the most out of your headphones” by downloading its app, and providing his name, email address and headphone serial number in the process.

But the Illinois resident said he was surprised to learn that Bose sent “all available media information” from his smartphone to third parties such as Segment.io, whose website promises to collect customer data and “send it anywhere.”

Audio choices offer “an incredible amount of insight” into customers’ personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might “very likely” be a Muslim, the complaint said.

“Defendants’ conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights,” the complaint said.

Zak is seeking millions of dollars of damages for buyers of headphones and speakers, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

He also wants a halt to the data collection, which he said violates the federal Wiretap Act and Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud.

Dore, a partner at Edelson PC, said customers do not see the Bose app’s user service and privacy agreements when signing up, and the privacy agreement says nothing about data collection.

Edelson specializes in suing technology companies over alleged privacy violations.

Mozilla To End Firefox’s Aurora Preview Track

April 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla has announced it will discontinue one of Firefox’s preview tracks that have allowed users to test early versions of the browser before wider deployment.

Companies running Firefox, and testing the browser using the “Aurora” track, will be automatically migrated to the “Beta” channel today.

“It became clear that Aurora was not meeting our expectations as a first stabilization channel,” wrote Dave Camp, director of engineering for Firefox; Sylvestre Ledru, the browser’s release manager; and Ali Spivak, head of developer marketing, in a post to a Mozilla blog.

Mozilla has offered multiple versions of each Firefox edition since 2011, when it began offering four builds — Nightly, Aurora, Beta and Release — each of which was supposed to be more stable than the previous.

“We have more modern processes underlying our [release] train model, and believe we can deliver feature-rich, stable products without the additional 6-8-week Aurora phase,” said Camp, Ledru and Spivak.

In that “train” approach, Mozilla added a new feature to the least stable version, Developer, then when the feature was ready, moved it to the next track, Aurora. As development progressed, the feature would shift to Beta and then finally to Release.

But Mozilla acknowledged that the system had sometimes failed. “The release cycle time has required that we subvert the model regularly over the years by uplifting new features to meet market requirements,” the company admitted in an accompanying FAQ, referring to times when it has had to skip one of the tracks or shorten the time a feature spent on one.

Firefox users on the Aurora channel were to be moved to Beta today, according to the FAQ. Aurora will not be updated after tomorrow, when Firefox 53 is to ship in final, or Release, form.

With Aurora’s disappearance, Mozilla will rely on Beta for the first widespread distribution of each edition of Firefox. To make up for Aurora’s absence, each beta will be rolled out in stages, just as Release has long been, with the idea that if major problems crop up, they do so early on and thus affect only a subset of customers before the spigot is turned off.

Aurora’s elimination will not increase the frequency of Release builds issued or decrease the time between each Release version; the latter will continue to range from six to nine weeks. Nor will the already-slated dates for future versions of Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) change. That edition, designed for enterprises and other large organizations, remains stable for approximately a year. Much like Windows 10’s LTSB (Long-term Servicing Branch), ESR receives only security updates.

Ditching Aurora, however, will let Mozilla move a new feature from inception to final about six to eight weeks faster than before.

Are Macs Virus Free

April 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The myth that Macs are somehow more secure than other operating systems appears to be a myth according to a Threat Report by McAfee Labs.

Attacks on Macs have risen by 744 percent in 2016 and there are more than 460,000 malware samples on Mac machines found. Although this is not a particularly high number you have to acknowledge that this is one security company and on a single machine.

It appears that after years of leaving Macs alone, virus writers are suddenly taking an interest in knocking them over and the security by obscurity measures, along with faith-based defences are not working.

The Tame Apple Press has rushed to say that “despite the dramatic increase in macOS malware attacks, Mac owners need not be too alarmed”.

One newspaper even said that the attacks were just irritating and not like the “true malware attacks” that Windows users have to suffer.

Most of the attacks were just adware which automatically generates and displays advertising material, including banners or pop-ups, whenever a user is online, the Tame Apple Press  tried to reassure Apple fanboys.

Last summer, Mac owners were warned about a new malware dubbed Backdoor.MAC.Elanor – a nasty piece of code that infects the OS X operating system and gives hackers complete access to the files on the computer.

Courtesy-Fud

Microft Sets Retirement Date For First Windows 10 Release

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

True to form, Microsoft has announced May 9 as the date it will issue the final updates for the debut edition of Windows 10 that launched in 2015.

Two months ago, Microsoft had extended support for Windows 10 version 1507 — Microsoft labels feature upgrades by year and month — from March to May, but did not specify the date in the latter month.

The May 9 retirement was quietly announced on several support documents, including the “Windows lifecycle fact sheet,” which lists several kinds of deadlines for various versions of the operating system.

Another document put it plainly. “The time has now come to end servicing for version 1507,” the support document read.

Stopping support for Windows 10 editions — Microsoft released the fourth on Tuesday — is an important part of the company’s software-as-a-service model. The company has pledged to support an individual edition, such as 1507, not for 10 years, as policy required for, say, Windows 7 or 8.1, but only for 18 months or so. That mandate insured Microsoft would not need to craft security patches, fix other bugs or add new features for an increasing number of versions.

By the time Windows 10 1507 slips off the list, it will have been supported for about 21 months. Part of the reason it lasted longer than Microsoft’s stated norm was because the firm issued just one feature upgrade — v. 1607 — in 2016.

The next Windows 10 edition, v. 1511, could be purged from support as soon as early October. That’s because Microsoft has committed to simultaneously supporting just two Current Branch for Business (CBB) builds. At the release of N+2 onto CBB, the company starts a 60-day-or-so countdown. At the end of the 60 days, N drops off the support list. N+1 then becomes N and N+2 morphs into N+1.

Under that policy, N would be 1511, N+1 version 1607 (released in August 2016) and N+2 1703 (this month’s feature upgrade). Version 1703 will likely be promoted to the CBB in four months, or August; two months more would put 1511’s support demise in October.

Users running 1507 must have upgraded to 1511, 1607 or 1703 by May 10 to receive future security patches, and other fixes or enhancements. Windows 10 1507 will not suddenly fail to boot, however, or degrade, as do copies that have not been activated with a product key.

The only exceptions will be customers whose devices are running v. 1507 from the Long-term Servicing Branch (LTSB), a special release track available only to organizations using Windows 10 Enterprise.

Was Apple Really Selling Bricked Phones?

April 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Australian users have a bit of a DIY mentality – like New Zealanders they can’t see the point of paying a fortune for something that they can get a mate to fix cheaper.  Normally they would only take it in to Apple if the problem cannot be fixed with masking tape and number eight fencing wire.  Apple has a huge problem with this. It makes a fortune charging fees to have its spotty blue shirts repairing things that most uses could fix with a screwdriver and WD40.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Apple thought it would be a rather super, cool, and revolutionary thing to brick iPhones which had not been repaired by its Genii. The way users would have to return the phone to be fixed.

Australia’s consumer watchdog has sued Apple claiming that the bricking happened in a software update which had cracked screens fixed by third parties and then refused to unlock them on the grounds that customers had had the devices serviced by non-Apple repairers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told the court that consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law exist independently of any manufacturer’s warranty and are not extinguished simply because a consumer has goods repaired by a third party.

Of course Apple is not saying anything. We have no doubt that its acolytes really believe that they are saving the customers’ souls from the dangers of cheap repairs. Everyone knows that all the phones don’t really belong to the users but are given in a sacred trust to the user for large amounts of cash on the assumption that they will never touch without the blessing of the church.

The regulator said that between September 2014 and February 2016, Apple customers who downloaded software updates then connected their devices to their computers received a message saying the device “could not be restored and the device had stopped functioning”.

Apple engaged in “misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to consumers” about its software updates and customers’ rights to have their products repaired by the company, the commission said.

As well as fines, the ACCC said it was seeking injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices, and costs.

Courtesy-Fud

Can Apple Succeed Without Imagination?

April 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies, the leading graphics processing unit supplier for Apple, issued a press statement on Monday saying that the fruit-themed gadget maker will no longer use the group’s intellectual property in new products manufactured 15 months to two years from now.

The development is a major hurdle for Imagination, the British chip designer that has provided PowerVR graphics processors for iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TVs and Apple Watches since 2007. The company’s partnership with Apple accounted for roughly half of its annual revenues, in addition to the royalties it had been receiving on account of iPhone and iPad devices. Those royalties, which totaled £60.7 million ($75.8 million) for the year ending April 2016 and £65 million ($81.2 million) for 2017, are set to expire roughly 15 months to two years from now, before Q2 2019.

Apple currently holds more than an eight percent share in Imagination, and become a key investor in mid-2009 after raising its stake to 10 percent. At one point last year, Apple was in the process of holding “advanced acquisition talks” but ultimately decided against a full takeover, according to the Financial Times. Following the talks, Chinese state-owned company Tsinghua then took a three percent stake in the British company.

Last February, Imagination also announced that longtime CEO Hossein Yassaie would be stepping down as part of a major business restructuring operation. This was followed by across-the-board operating cuts by £15 million over the next year into April 2017 – including £2 million from its PowerVR product series.

In its press release on Monday, Imagination states that Apple “has not presented any evidence” to claim that it will no longer require [Imagination technologies], “without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property and confidential information. This evidence has been requested by Imagination but Apple has declined to provide it”.

Imagination: Alternative GPU designs will be impossible without patent infringement

In a serious call against disparagement, the British-based R&D company believes that Apple will not be able to produce any substantive GPU alternatives on its own without violating its patents, intellectual property and confidential information. But with a determination to take its mobile graphics in-house, Apple still confidently insists it has an A-series alternative underway for the next generation of product announcements scheduled for 2018.

The original iPhone featured a low-power ARM RISC CPU with assistance from a PowerVR MBX directly descended from Imagination’s Dreamcast GPU. Nine years later, the iPhone 7 came with a custom six-core PowerVR 7X6 GT7600 Plus with OpenCL 2 support and accelerated computer vision technologies.

Apple has already taken several key employees

Imagination’s rebuttals have not appeared without legitimate grievance, however. Back in October, it was revealed that at least 25 of its employees and management personnel jumped ship to Apple over the past two years. Names include notable ex-COO John Metcalfe, Senior Design Manager Dave Roberts, VP of Hardware Engineering Johnathan Redshaw, and Senior Software Engineering Manager Benjamin Bowman – who is now a GPU architect for the Cupertino company. While the list of grievances prior to today’s breakup is not against the law, it is considered a serious exodus of raw talent that is evidently justified in Imagination’s disconcerted press statement.

Following the statement, Imagination shares plunged by nearly 70 percent, leading to its insistence that it has reason to go to court with the Cupertino company if it finds enough evidence to present a case. This decade, several GPU vendors have taken SoC vendors to court, including Nvidia with Samsung and Qualcomm, and an ongoing AMD case against LG, MediaTek, Sigma and Vizio.

Apple, however, has chosen to remain silent when asked for evidence that its in-house technologies would not violate existing patents. The question is whether Apple will choose to license any needed patents – from Imagination or others – or if it is not talking because GPU development is a lot more competitive now that programs aren’t tied to a specific architecture.

As AnandTech notes, there hasn’t been a new major GPU vendor in nearly a decade aside from Qualcomm’s acquisition of ATI’s Imageon brand (now Adreno) in 2009. It will be interesting to see how this development unfolds and the precautions Apple will need to take in hiding technical details of any upcoming graphics developments. Imagination, on the other hand, now has to work much harder in making up for lost revenues and may have some related announcements over the next few weeks.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Word Being Used To Transport Malware

April 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cybercriminals have been exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Word for the past few months to compromise computers and infect them with malware.

The first report about the attacks came from antivirus vendor McAfee after the company’s researchers analyzed some suspicious Word files spotted a day earlier. It turned out that the files were exploiting a vulnerability that affects “all Microsoft Office versions, including the latest Office 2016 running on Windows 10.”

The flaw is related to the Windows Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) feature in Microsoft Office that allows documents to embed references and links to other documents or objects, the McAfee researchers said in a blog post.

When the rogue documents used in this attack are opened, they reach out to an external server and download an HTA (HTML Application) file that contains malicious VBScript code. The HTA file is disguised as an RTF (Rich Text Format) document and is automatically executed.

“The successful exploit closes the bait Word document, and pops up a fake one to show the victim,” the McAfee researchers said. “In the background, the malware has already been stealthily installed on the victim’s system.”

By searching back through its data, McAfee has tracked down attacks exploiting this vulnerability to late January.

Following McAfee’s report, security researchers from FireEye also confirmed that they’ve been aware of these attacks and exploit for several weeks and have coordinated disclosure with Microsoft.

According to FireEye, the malicious Word documents are sent as email attachments. The company hasn’t provided examples of the malicious emails, but because this is a previously undisclosed, zero-day vulnerability, the attacks are likely targeted toward a limited number of victims.

Both McAfee and FireEye noted that the exploit can bypass most memory-based mitigations included in Windows. That’s because the vulnerability is a logic bug rather than a programming error.

Microsoft is scheduled to release its monthly security updates on Tuesday, but it’s not clear if a patch for this vulnerability will be included. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the meantime, users should be wary of documents received from untrusted sources and should enable the Office Protected View mode because it can block this attack.

Are Smart TVs Vulnerable To Wireless Hacking?

April 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A security hole in smart TVs which allows a hacker to take over devices using rogue DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting — Terrestrial) signals, get root access on the smart TV has worried a Swiss cyber security expert.

Rafael Scheel, a security researcher working for Swiss cyber security consulting company Oneconsult, said the attack is unique and much more dangerous than previous smart TV hacks.

It is nasty because the attacker can execute it from a remote location, without user interaction, and runs in the TV’s background processes, meaning users won’t notice when an attacker compromises their TVs.

The hack is similar to one found in the CIA’s Weeping Angel toolkit, but apparently was developed without it.

Scheel says that “about 90% per cent of the TVs sold in the last years are potential victims of similar attacks”, highlighting a major flaw in the infrastructure surrounding smart TVs all over the globe.

The hole is in the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV), an industry standard which is supported by most cable providers and smart TV makers. It “harmonizes” classic broadcast, IPTV, and broadband delivery systems. TV transmission signal technologies like DVB-T, DVB-C, or IPTV all support HbbTV.

Scheel says that anyone can set up a custom DVB-T transmitter with equipment priced between $50-$150, and start broadcasting a DVB-T signal.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Unveils Windows Insider Program For Business

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Business will finally gain access to their own version of the Microsoft Windows 10 beta program this week. On Friday, Microsoft rolled out the Windows Insider Program for Business, alongside its first post-Creators Update Windows 10 beta.

The program will let business users sign up for beta updates with their Azure Active Directory credentials, rather than a personal Microsoft account. The new feature is designed to provide IT professionals with a path for giving Microsoft business-specific feedback on Windows 10 features. That, in turn, should help business users shape feature development.

Creating a business Insider Program is Microsoft’s response to IT pros’ requests for a connection with the Windows development team. Windows 10 got off to a rocky start with some systems administrators who weren’t thrilled by Microsoft’s policy of only providing cumulative updates to the operating system rather than letting administrators pick and choose which patches to apply.

In a support document, the company said this program isn’t separate from the main Insider Program, but instead a way for businesses to better engage with the existing community of people testing new versions of Windows. In addition, Microsoft believes the new program will help businesses with their internal testing of Windows updates by giving early access to future patches.

Microsoft plans to do more to engage with IT teams in the future, Windows Insider Program chief Dona Sarkar said in a blog post.

Friday’s update starts laying the groundwork for Microsoft’s next major Windows 10 update, which is expected to arrive later this year. It comes four days before the company is slated to roll out the Creators Update, which will bring a flotilla of new features and functionality, to non-beta users.

The new bits released to members of the Windows Insider Program’s Fast ring don’t add much in the way of functionality to Windows 10. For the most part, the release is focused on updates to OneCore, the appropriately named systems at the core of Windows 10.

As is the norm with many Insider releases, there is a fleet of known issues in build 16170. Users can expect to see issues including one bug that prevents Windows Defender from opening when double-clicked. Right clicking it and choosing “open” will still launch the app.

Users who want to avoid bugs can move over to the Windows Insider Program’s Slow ring, which will give users increased reliability in exchange for delayed access to new updates.

 

Google Investing In Another Massive Undersea Fiber-optic Cable

April 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is plans on funding another massive undersea fiber-optic cable as a part of its plans to build out network connectivity around the world. The company announced  that it is investing in a project called Indigo, which will connect Jakarta, Singapore, Perth and Sydney to one another.

The cable will run for approximately 9,000 kilometers (almost 5,600 miles) and provide a capacity of roughly 18Tbps (bits per second). It’s being built to bring users more connectivity in a region that has growing internet needs.

Google has now invested in five submarine cables in the Asia-Pacific region and seven overall. By investing in these cables, the company hopes to better compete with other cloud providers and consumer internet companies.

Alcatel Submarine Networks will build the cable, and Google expects it to be finished by the middle of 2019. Other Indigo investors include cable company SubPartners and ISPs AARNet, Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel and Telstra.

Only Google and the other investors will be able to use Indigo, though Singtel and Telstra will be able to sell capacity to their customers as part of their telecom businesses.

Google and other users of the cable will be able to expand its capacity with future technology to keep up with growing needs. Indigo has two fiber pairs, one-third as many as the trans-Pacific FASTER cable turned on last year, where Google was also an investor.

Interestingly, Indigo’s roughly 9,000-kilometer run puts it on par with the length of FASTER. It’s that long partly because of the curving path it needs to take to connect the four cities along its length.

Twitter Unveils New ‘Lite’ Version

April 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc is launching a more streamlined and faster version of its mobile service geared towards people with sporadic connections or little data on their smartphone plans, hoping to pick up users in harder-to-reach emerging markets.

The company calls the version Twitter Lite and it will be aimed largely at users outside the United States. Twitter Lite works through a web browser, not a stand-alone phone application, but its appearance and functionality are nearly identical to what app users experience, according to a preview shown to Reuters.

The launch comes on the heels of similar products from other U.S. tech firms. Facebook Inc released Facebook Lite in 2015 and on Tuesday, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube unveiled a low-data mobile app designed for India.

San Francisco-based Twitter lags behind those companies in building a user base. It had 319 million average monthly active users at the end of last year, up 4 percent year-over-year but still a fraction of Facebook’s 1.9 billion users.

A primary reason in some parts of the world is how much data its app and earlier website consumed, Keith Coleman, Twitter’s vice president of product, said in an interview.

“We didn’t feel like we were reaching these other countries well enough, and this will allow us to do it faster, cheaper and with a better experience than we’ve had before,” he said.

The company estimates that, with several changes it is making to its mobile website, mobile.twitter.com, users will see their average data consumption on the browser version go down 40 percent.

With an additional data-saving feature users can turn on, data consumption will drop some 70 percent on average, said Patrick Traughber, a Twitter product manager. The reduction will come from differences such as initially displaying previews of pictures instead of full pictures.

 

Amazon To Refund Parents Over Kid’s In-app Purchases

April 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Parents with children who racked up bills, sometimes huge, through in-app purchases will receive some or all of that money back. Amazon could have to refund more than $70 million to affected consumers, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC and Amazon have agreed to end their legal battle over whether the U.S. company unlawfully charged its customers for the purchases.

A year ago, a court found that Amazon had.

The company’s app store can be downloaded to Android devices and it runs on certain Kindle tablets. However, parents had complained that Amazon’s system had made it all too easy for their children to buy virtual items in the apps, without their consent.

Both the FTC and Amazon had filed appeals related to the case, but on Tuesday, they dropped them. That opens the way for the refund process to begin shortly, according to the FTC.

More than $70 million in in-app charges made from 2011 to 2016 may be eligible for refunds, the U.S. regulator said.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, so it’s unclear how the company will reimburse its customers. Amazon had taken a 30 percent cut from the in-app purchases, according to the FTC.

In 2014, Apple and Google settled similar cases over in-app purchases with the FTC, which resulted in a combined $51 million in refunds to customers.

In Apple’s case, the company emailed and sent postcards to every customer who might have been affected. Apple eventually received 37,000 claims, and made refunds to them all.

Opera’s VPN Product Sees Boost In Use After ISP Privacy Law Changes

April 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Opera Software is boasting that the number of new U.S. users of its browser has more than doubled days after Congress voted to repeal restrictions on broadband providers eager to sell customers’ surfing history.

Opera debuted a VPN — virtual private network — a year ago, and finalized the feature in September. A VPN disguises the actual IP address of the user, effectively anonymizing the browsing, and encrypts the data transmitted to and from sites, creating a secure “tunnel” to the destination.

By using a VPN, U.S. users block their Internet service providers (ISPs) from recording their online activity.

“The average number of daily new Opera users in the U.S. has more than doubled since Congress decided to repeal certain internet privacy protections last Tuesday,” claimed the company in a statement. As support, it offered a graph illustrating a 109% increase in new U.S. users from March 28 to March 30.

“We integrated a free, no-log VPN directly into the browser to bring everyone, not just savvy users, a simple tool for protecting their privacy,” Krystian Kolondra, the head of engineering for the desktop version of Opera, said in a statement. “The usage statistics for the past few days show that users are becoming even more conscious about their potential privacy issues when online.”

VPNs have been a hot topic since March 28, when the U.S. House of Representatives followed the Senate to overturn privacy rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed last year. By repealing the rules — which had not taken effect — Congress allowed broadband providers to sell recorded customer data, including browsing history, location, even what apps had been used, without customer consent.

Opera’s claim of more new users, however, was not confirmed by browser activity tracking, including the numbers posted daily by Irish analytics company StatCounter.

According to StatCounter, which measures what Computerworld calls usage share, Opera accounted for 0.72% of all browsing in the U.S. during a five-day stretch from March 29 to April 2. But the usage share for the preceding five-day spans in March — from a Wednesday to the following Sunday — were little different: They ranged from 0.74% to 0.76%.

Spotify Inks Exclusive Artist Deal With Universal Music

April 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Music streaming service Spotify announced that it has signed a deal with Universal Music Group that will allow artists to release new albums exclusively on its paying premium service for two weeks.

Spotify, a rival to Apple Music, has yet to report a profit as it expands, but is under pressure from some artists who have boycotted the usually free service and needs to show investors it can generate cash as it considers a U.S. listing.

The multi-year license agreement with Universal Music could make Spotify more attractive to Universal Music’s artists, who include Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Kanye West.

“We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we’ve worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy,” Spotify Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek said in a statement.

“Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy,” he said.

Spotify said the deal also covered collaboration on marketing campaigns and would give Universal Music “unprecedented access” to data.

Spotify did not disclose details of the agreement in the statement, such as the fee structure or its exact duration, and a company spokeswoman declined to provide further information.

Launched in 2008, Spotify said last month it had reached 50 million paying subscribers, a rise of 25 percent in less than six months, extending its lead over Apple Music.

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