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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.

 

Bose Sues Beats Over Patent Infringement

July 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Headphone maker Bose has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against rival Beats Electronics, which Apple recently agreed to purchase in a US$3 billion deal.

In its complaint, Bose alleges that the “active noise cancellation” system in Beats Studio and Studio Wireless headphones infringes on five of its patents that relate to digital audio processing, compression and noise cancellation technology.

They are U.S. patents 6,717,537; 8,073,150; 8,073,151; 8,054,992; and 8,345,888.

In addition to the suit, which was filed in Delaware, the company also lodged a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission asking the trade court to ban Beats from importing the headphones into the U.S.

Companies are increasingly filing lawsuits with the ITC in addition to the domestic court system in the hopes an import injunction will provide extra leverage when it comes to negotiations over alleged infringement.

The lawsuit comes just under two months after the Apple deal was announced. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of September, and it’s unknown if the lawsuit could change that schedule or the acquisition price.

Apple and Beats did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

AMD Moving Quickly On Stacked DRAM APUs

July 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD is fast tracking stacked DRAM deployment and a new presentation leaked by the company  points to APUs with stacked DRAM, or high bandwidth memory (HBM).

AMD is calling the project “Fastforward” and it is all about boosting memory bandwidth on upcoming APUs. However, AMD is not talking about specific products yet and it is unclear whether HBM will be implemented on its upcoming Carizzo APU. This seems highly unlikely at this point for a number of reasons and if we were to speculate we would say HBM is coming to the next-next generation of AMD APUs.

Stacked DRAM APUs to deliver up to 128GBps bandwidth

Using two DRAM stacks AMD could boost bandwidth at an unprecedented rate. Two stacks would result in a 1024-bit interface and up to 128GBps bandwidth. GDDR5 maxes out at 32 bits and 28GBps. With one stack in play the results are somewhat lower, 512-bit bus and 64GBps bandwidth.

AMD says it is looking at 1.2V+ DRAM with 2Gb per stack and 4 DRAM modules per stack. However, the presentation states that AMD is currently conducting evaluations of “various architectures and interface options,” so it could be a while before we see what exactly it has in mind.

AMD’s Fastforward objectives

Stacked DRAM is just part of the story, as AMD’s Fastforward initiative is a bit broader. The company says its principle Fastforward objective is to investigate processor and memory technologies for exascale systems based on high volume architectures and open standards.

The end result should “provide significant benefits” to high volume markets and the chipmaker says it is “based on extending high volume APU architecture.”

The list of key technologies which are part of the fastforward project is quite long. HSA, stacked DRAM, new APIs, non-volatile memory and processing-in-memory are just some of them.

Courtesy-Fud

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.

 

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.

 

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

Sony’s FeliCa Smartcard Chip Is Gearing Up For Wearables

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you’re waiting for that multi-functional smartwatch of your dreams, Sony is working to add contactless payments to wearables with a new chip.

The electronics giant’s FeliCa Networks subsidiary is modifying its FeliCa contactless card technology, widely used in Japan for public transit and e-money payments, for wearables.

The company is designing a low-power chip that could be used in wearables such as smartwatches and smart bands, giving them contactless e-money or transit functions or access to restricted areas.

That would allow users to board a train or bus simply by waving a smartwatch near a chip reader, eliminating the need for a separate smart card.

“The wearables field is just beginning so we’re considering what users will want with this functionality as well as what degree of compactness and power savings it will have,” a spokeswoman for FeliCa Networks said.

The company is also developing FeliCa smartcards with small LCD screens and a touch interface that can display information when users swipe their fingers across the cards.

This “interactive FeliCa card,” still in the prototype stage, can show the remaining balance of money stored in the card, for instance, or payment history.

While about 45 million Android smartphones in Japan have had the FeliCa chip since 2012, iPhones do not support it. The LCD smart card could link with iPhones via Bluetooth so users could check their balances on their phones.

FeliCa Networks hopes to introduce the LCD smartcards in the year to April 2016.

One in two people in Japan has a mobile phone with NFC FeliCa phone functions, according to FeliCa Networks.

The company has shipped more than 236 million of its Mobile FeliCa chips as of December 2013, while Suica, a FeliCa-based smartcard for railways in the Tokyo area, can be used in 230,000 stores.

 

 

Nearly 1M Fake Apps Are Targeting Your Mobile Devices

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Fake apps purposely masked to look like official ones but actually designed to steal user data are increasingly targeting Android phone users, according to a study by Trend Micro.

The company looked at the top 50 free apps in Google’s Play Store and then searched Google’s app store and others to see if fake versions existed. It found fake versions existed for 77 percent of the apps. The fake apps are often made to look like the real ones and have the same functions, but carry a dangerous extra payload.

“We’ve been tracking the activity of malicious or high-risk apps for nearly five years,” said JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro. “The potential for people to slip things past the gate and appear legitimate is much easier.”

Tokyo-based Trend Micro, which makes antivirus and antimalware software that guard against such risks, said it cataloged 890,482 fake apps in a survey conducted in April this year. More than half were judged to be malicious of which 59,185 were aggressive adware and 394,263 were malware.

The most common type of fake app purports to be antivirus software — targeting users who think they are protecting themselves from such problems. In some cases, the apps ask users to approve administrator privileges, which allow the app wider access to the phone’s software and data and make it more difficult to remove.

While many of the fake apps exist on forums or third-party app stores where security is either weaker than Google’s Play Store or nonexistent, fake apps can also invade the official Google store.

“A more recent example of a rogue antivirus app known as “Virus Shield” received a 4.7-star rating after being downloaded more than 10,000 times, mostly with the aid of bots,” Trend Micro said in its report.

Cheekily, scammers charged $3.99 for the fake app, which promised to prevent harmful apps from being installed. It was removed by Google after a few days, but not before it fooled thousands of users and even became a “top new paid app” in the Play Store. Trend said it was “perplexing” how the app achieved “top” status.

Attackers sometimes play on hype for apps.

When the “Flappy Bird” game was taken off the Play Store, fake versions appeared, some of which sent premium text messages. And before BlackBerry released its BBM messenger app for Android, a number of fake versions appeared that were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Trend Micro’s report was published on the same day Google said it had formed a security team to go after so-called “zero-day” exploits in software that allow attackers to target users before software companies issue patches.

Sherry said he thought Google’s announcement was “ironic” considering the large number of problems Trend Micro found in Google’s own backyard.

 

Will Google’s Project Zero Succeed?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Google has announced “Project Zero”, a dramatically-named initiative that looks to mitigate the risk of internet users getting hit by targeted cyber attacks.

Started by a group of Google security researchers with the mission of ridding the world of security dangers such as zero-day attacks, Project Zero will hire “the best practically-minded security researchers”, Google said, promising to contribute all of their time “toward improving security across the internet”.

The group was put together after certain Googlers started spending “some of their time on research that makes the internet safer, leading to the discovery of bugs like Heartbleed,” said Google researcher Chris Evans in a blog post.

“We’re not placing any particular bounds on this project and will work to improve the security of any software depended upon by large numbers of people, paying careful attention to the techniques, targets and motivations of attackers,” Evans explained. “We’ll use standard approaches such as locating and reporting large numbers of vulnerabilities.”

Evans said that Project Zero will also conduct new research into mitigations, exploitation, program analysis, and anything else that the researchers decide is a worthwhile investment.

The Googlers at Project Zero will commit to doing their work transparently, with every bug discovered being filed in an external database. They will also report bugs only to the software’s vendor and no third parties.

“Once the bug report becomes public, typically once a patch is available, you’ll be able to monitor vendor time-to-fix performance, see any discussion about exploitability, and view historical exploits and crash traces,” Evans said. “We also commit to sending bug reports to vendors in as close to real-time as possible, and to working with them to get fixes to users in a reasonable time.”

Not to long before the announcement of Project Zero on Tuesday, Google came under fire from European Union courts, which have forced the firm to forget certain people’s irrelevant or outdated online histories. Within days of the court order going into effect, EU citizens were begging Google to have their pasts expunged, at the rate of 10,000 requests per day.

However, it has since emerged that the buried webpages haven’t been technically disabled, nor have they been erased, security Firm Sophos reports.

“Regardless of what the directive is being called, courts technically didn’t grant Europeans the right to be forgotten. Rather, it gave them the right to be relatively obscured, by having eligible pages flagged so they don’t show up in search results,” said Sophos in a blog post.

“The data is still out there. And now, a newly launched site is archiving the forcibly de-indexed pages, in the name of opening up to the internet as a whole the discussion regarding what should or should not be ‘forgotten’.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Apple Having Issues With Sharp?

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

There is a spat brewing between Apple and its long term supplier Sharp. Sharp has been making Apple displays for ages and has an entire plant dedicated to this purpose. The manufacturing gear now belongs to Apple and Sharp wants to buy the equipment back for $293 million.

Apparently, Sharp wants to diversify its production and shift away from supplying only to Apple. Jobs’ Mob is amenable to the idea of selling the facilities but only if Sharp never sells anything to Samsung. Samsung mostly utilizes OLED screens in most of its products, so there is little for Apple to worry about. However some devices still use LCD screens and might have Sharp gear under the bonnet.

An agreement has not yet been reached and it seems unlikely as the manufacturer is not keen on accepting the blatant anti-competitive behaviour or as Apple would say “shrewed negotiation ability.”

Sharp does not want to piss off Apple. It is busy producing iPhone 6 screens for Apple and the Kameyama Plant No. 1 which is the one that Sharp wants to buy back, flat out.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Touch ID Patent Falters

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s application to trademark the name ‘Touch ID’ for its fingerprint scanning technology has been rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Apparently the name already belongs to an outfit called Kronos, a US-based company that makes workforce management software.

The USPTO pointed out that granting Apple the patent for Touch ID may create confusion among potential users. Kronos’s Touch ID technology is also related to fingerprint recognition and has been doing rather well. It has had the trademark since 2001, while Apple’s application was submitted in January this year only.

The iPhone maker has six months to respond to the letter and provide an alternative. If Apple fails to do so, its application will be considered abandoned by the US patent office and the company will have to rename the feature. The Tame Apple Press gets all moist about the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which was billed as the “killer ap” on the iPhone 5S.  It is going on the iPad range in October.

The fact Apple could not be bothered to check the name was trademarked before it stuck it in the iPhone5S is probably going to cause it some problems. After all it had a few difficulties with the iPad name.

Courtesy-Fud