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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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Dell, BlackBerry Downplay Apple-IBM Alliance

July 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

IBM Corp’s recent move to team up with Apple Inc to sell iPhones and iPads loaded with corporate applications has excited investors in both companies, but two rivals say they are unfazed for now.

Top executives at Dell and BlackBerry Ltd scoffed at the threat posed by the alliance, arguing the tie-up is unlikely to derail the efforts of their own companies to re-invent themselves.

“I do not think that we take the Apple-IBM tie-up terribly seriously. I think it just made a good press release,” John Swainson, who heads Dell’s global software business, said in an interview with Reuters in Toronto last week.

PC maker Dell and smartphone maker BlackBerry are in the midst of reshaping their companies around software and services, as the needs of their big corporate clients morph.

Swainson, who spent over two decades in senior roles at IBM, said, “I have some trouble understanding how IBM reps are going to really help Apple very much in terms of introducing devices into their accounts. I mean candidly, they weren’t very good at doing it when it was IBM-logoed products, so I do not get how introducing Apple-logoed stuff is going to be much better.”

While conceding that Apple products hold more allure, Swainson said they lack the depth of security features that many large business clients like banks covet.

IBM and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen similarly downplayed the threat of the alliance in an interview with the Financial Times, likening the tie-up to when “two elephants start dancing.”

 

 

Sprint Teams Up With Google To Sell Business Apps

July 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Sprint announced a partnership with Google to offer the Google Apps for Business cloud service, noting that customers of the service won’t have to use Sprint’s wireless network or Android devices.

The partnership helps move Sprint well beyond it’s role as a basic wireless carrier for businesses to one that will bolster basic Google cloud service and access to Google apps with Sprint’s own hands-on professional consulting, much of it free.

The announcement comes amid widespread reports that Sprint is in discussions to buy T-Mobile and just weeks after a six-month study of wireless carrier network performance found Sprint didn’t finish first among national carriers in any of 125 U.S. cities.

Sprint’s resale of Google Apps for Business kicks off officially on Aug. 18. Sprint will charge businesses the same rate that Google does — with pricing starting at $5 per month per worker for access to a variety of apps such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Docs, or $10 a month per user per month for Google Apps access with unlimited cloud storage, and other services.

In addition, Sprint will offer its new Google Apps for Business customers a number of free services, including consulting on mobile deployment strategy, project management and cloud help-desk support (with all cloud servers under the ownership of Google). Sprint will charge for certain professional services, such as creating single sign-on capability or domain services. Pricing for those services, in addition to the standard Google Apps for Business costs, will be announced closer to launch.

Sprint’s John Tudhope, director of marketing for enterprise services, said Sprint’s Google Apps for Business customers won’t need to be Sprint wireless customers to get the new service.

 

 

 

Sony Wants To Capitalize On The ‘Selfie’ Boom

July 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp said that it has plans to invest 35 billion yen ($345 million) to increase production of image sensors for smartphones and tablets, as the company courts handset makers to get more orders for front-facing camera sensors, used to take selfies.

The Japanese firm said it will increase production of stacked CMOS sensors at two factories on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, while completing work on a factory in northwestern Japan it bought from Renesas Electronics Corp for a total investment of 35 billion yen.

Sony, which currently supplies image sensors for the main camera in Apple Inc’s iPhone said the investment will allow it to raise production by 13 percent to 68,000 wafers a month by August 2015, a step closer to its mid-term goal of 75,000.

Imaging sensors are an area of strength for Sony, which leads the market ahead of Omnivision Technologies Inc, whose sensors are mostly used in front-facing smartphone modules that typically have lower specifications than the main rear camera.

Sony told Reuters in March that it was looking to supply more sensors for front-facing cameras as smartphone makers were looking to improve their quality in response to consumers taking more ‘selfies’, or self-portraits, as well as video calls.

Of the total investment, 9 billion yen will be spent this year, which will come out of the 65 billion yen capex budget for semiconductors announced in May. The remaining 26 billion yen will be spent in the first half of the fiscal year starting next March.

 

Google May Have A Plan To Bring Wi-Fi To NYC Pay Phones

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google may be amongst a list of hopefuls looking to transform the New York City phone booths of the past into “communication points” of the future with free Wi-Fi and cellphone charging.

The dominant search company was among 60 entities that attended a meeting on May 12 to discuss a project to replace or supplement as many as 10,000 pay phones around the city. The list came to light in a Bloomberg News article. Other participants included Samsung, IBM, Cisco Systems, Verizon Wireless, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable.

Responses to the “request for proposals” (RFP) from vendors were due Monday. Google, or any other participant in the May 12 meeting, may have pulled out of the process before filing one. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But it seems likely the company will at least submit a plan, given the opportunity to blanket much of New York’s streetscape with Wi-Fi. Despite some false starts and headaches in free public Wi-Fi in the past, Google looks more serious than ever about providing new forms of Internet access. It’s selling gigabit-speed service via fiber in Provo, Utah, and Kansas City, and plans to expand that service to Austin, Texas. A Google request for information sent to 34 other prospective Google Fiber cities suggested the company is looking at adding a Wi-Fi component to that service, too. Far outside major cities, its balloon-based Project Loon is being tested in licensed frequencies sometimes used for LTE cellular networks.

The New York project would be vast and potentially lucrative, as well as high profile. There are currently more than 7,000 pay-phone sites spread across all five boroughs of the city, and about 4,000 of them carry advertising on the sides. The winning bidder for the upgrade project would share ad revenue with the city, which says it would pay them at least US$17.5 million in compensation.

 

 

Yahoo To Purchase Flurry To Beef Up Mobile Ad Revenue

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc will acquire mobile analytics startup Flurry to beef up a fast-growing mobile advertising business that still lags Google Inc’s  and Facebook Inc’s in scale.

Six-year-old Flurry uses analytics to help target ads at consumers by monitoring activity on more than half a million apps on some 1.4 billion mobile devices around the world, Yahoo said in a statement.

The startup provides information to help marketers and brands more easily reach their desired audiences, Yahoo said.

Yahoo did not cite a price tag, but a source familiar with the matter said the Internet company is paying several hundred million dollars. Tech blog re/code earlier reported that rough amount.

Flurry will operate much as before after the acquisition closes, and its team will remain in their current locations, Yahoo added.

Yahoo is trying to revitalize a stagnant online advertising business as Chief Executive Marissa Mayer marks her second anniversary at the Internet company.

The former Google executive has revamped many of Yahoo’s Web products but its ad sales are still weak while rivals such as Google and Facebook continue to post strong, double-digit revenue growth.

Like its rivals, it has been investing in its mobile advertising platform, as users increasingly access the Internet from smartphones and tablets. Its mobile advertising revenue more than doubled in the second quarter.

But mobile advertising typically commands lower rates than online. Revenue in Yahoo’s display advertising business decreased 8 percent to $436 million in the second quarter.

 

Xiaomi Sets Sights On Premium Smartphone Market With Mi 4 Device

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi introduced on Tuesday its new flagship Mi 4 smartphone, aimed primarily at the premium handset market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Mi 4 has a 5 inch, 1080p screen and a Qualcomm Inc Snapdragon 801 2.5 Ghz processor, said Chief Executive Lei Jun at a launch event in Beijing.

But sheathed in iPhone-like metal sides, the Mi 4′s similarities to Apple’s smartphone drew murmurs from the crowd of ‘iPhone’ when showcased by Lei.

Founded in 2010 by Lei, Xiaomi seeks to cut costs by eschewing brick-and-mortar stores in favor of web-based distribution and word-of-mouth marketing.

Xiaomi became the world’s sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. The company was valued at $10 billion last year.

Xiaomi sold 18.7 mln smartphones in 2013 and on Tuesday maintained a 60 million sales target for 2014. For comparison, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has said it is targeting 80 million smartphone sales for the year.

The latest phone was unveiled at a glitzy launch event at the National Convention Center in Beijing, where Lei Jun and Vice President Hugo Barra – a former Google executive – posed for photos with a winding queue of fans decked in Xiaomi-branded red T-shirts.

Barra told Reuters in an interview this month that the company was actively targeting the Indian market.

 

Twitter Pressed To Release Diversity Data

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging Twitter to release its employee diversity information, which its Silicon Valley peers such as Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Facebook have already done.

The Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by Jackson, has also asked Twitter to signal its commitment to inclusion by hosting a public community forum to address the company’s plan to recruit and retain more African American talent.

The coalition and black empowerment group, ColorOfChange.org, plans to launch a Twitter-based campaign to challenge the company, the coalition said in a statement late last week.

On Friday at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, ColorofChange will lead a “Black Twitter” plenary session where activists will push out the petition campaign over Twitter and other social media.

Tech companies have been under pressure to release employee diversity data since Jackson took up the campaign to highlight the underrepresentation of African-Americans in Silicon Valley companies, starting with a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual meeting of shareholders.

“….Twitter has remained silent, resisting and refusing to publicly disclose its EEO-1 workforce diversity/inclusion data,” according to the joint petition by the coalition and ColorOfChange.org.

The diversity reports are typically filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and companies are not required to make the information public.

Twitter has not commented on the matter.

 

 

Lenovo Says It’s Still In The 8-in. Windows Tablet Game

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Lenovo on Friday said it would continue selling sub-10-in. Windows tablets in the U.S., backing away from statements it made the day before, when it said it was pulling the ThinkPad 8 from the North American market and had discontinued offering a model of the Miix 2.

“We will continue to bring new Windows devices to market across different screen sizes, including a new 8-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet coming this holiday,” Lenovo said in a press release published on its website Friday.

“Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media (emphasis in original),” the statement continued.

On Thursday, the IDG News Service — like Computerworld, owned and operated by IDG – reported the withdrawal of the ThinkPad 8 and the 8-in. Miix from the U.S. market. The ThinkPad 8 had debuted in January at prices starting at $449, and the similarly-sized Miix had launched in October 2013.

Lenovo told IDG News that it was diverting remaining stocks of the ThinkPad 8 to other countries, including Brazil, China, and Japan, where demand was stronger for smaller Windows 8.1-powered tablets.

The China-based company, which has made impressive gains in the global market — it was the world’s largest personal computer seller during the second quarter, ahead of Hewlett-Packard and Dell, according to IDC — did not say exactly when it would return with an 8-in. device. If it begins selling the unnamed device in October, typical of OEMs that seed the channel then for the holiday sales season, it will have been absent from the market for two or more months.

 

 

Are Governments Doing Enough To Warn People On The Risk of Cybercrime?

July 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The UK Government isn’t doing enough to warn about the risks of cybercrime on a mass level, security firm Kaspersky has claimed.

Speaking at a company roundtable event at the firm’s European hub in London on Thursday, Kaspersky security researcher David Emm said isn’t doing as much as it could be to educate people about cyber security.

“I’d like to see the government doing more to get the message out to mainstream citizens and individuals because that’s the bone in which the industry is growing; the individuals with ideas,” Emm said

“If you look at it, the recent Cyber Street Wise campaign aside, I don’t think the government is doing very much in terms of mainstream messaging and I would certainly like to see it do more.”

Emm used the example of major UK marketing campaigns promoting the dangers of drink driving as an ideal model because they have been drilled into us over the years.

“As parents, we’ve this body of common sense, such as drinks driving, and it’s drip, drip, drip, over the years that has achieved that and I think we need to get to a point where we have some body of online common sense in which business people can draw upon; there’s definitely a role for education.”

Barclay’s bank, which was also present at the roundtable, agreed with Emm.

“The government really needs to recognise this is a serious issue – if you’re bright enough to set up your own business, you’re bright enough to protect yourself,” added the firm’s MD of fraud prevention Alex Grant.

Emm concluded by saying that the government’s Cyber Street Wise campaign that was launched in January was good enough to make people aware of the risks of cybercrime in the metropolitan areas. However, he said he’d like to see the government focus more on regional areas as people in sparsely populated areas weren’t as aware of it.

Kaspersky’s roundtable took place as part of the firm’s launch of a report that found small businesses in the UK are “woefully unprepared” for an IT security breach, despite relying increasingly on mobile devices and storing critical information on computers.

The study found that nearly a third, or 31 percent, of small businesses would not know what to do if they had an IT security breach tomorrow, with four in ten saying that they would struggle to recover all data lost and a quarter admitting they would be unable to recover any.

Courtesy-TheInq