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Sony Aims To Extend Content For Its Virtual-Reality Headset

September 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

playstation-vr-headset-150x150Sony Corp plans to extend content for its dedicated virtual-reality (VR) headset into non-gaming areas such as TV and film, and has no plans to join the burgeoning market for smartphone-based headsets, its gaming division chief said.

Andrew House, Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc’s chief executive, said in an interview that he was already in talks with media production companies to explore possibilities for the PlayStation VR headset, due for release on Oct. 13.

“We are talking about years into the future, but these are interesting conversations to start having now,” House said.

House’s gaming division has been one of Sony’s main sources of profit in recent years as sales of TV sets and other once-core electronics goods decline in the face of price competition.

As smartphone gaming now encroaches on the console market, Sony has opted to seek growth through innovations such as VR. However, analysts have said non-gaming content is necessary to broaden the appeal – and profitability – of VR.

Sony’s VR headset works in conjunction with its PlayStation 4 games console and will retail at a price lower than Facebook Inc’s Oculus Rift and HTC Corp’s Vive headsets that require more expensive personal computers to run.

But smartphone-powered headsets will be far cheaper and more portable because they use the smartphone screen as the display.

There are well over 100 smartphone-based VR headsets from 65 developers already on the market, according to Lux Research. Alphabet Inc’s Google will add to that number with its Daydream VR platform that works with its Android mobile operating system.

Sony’s House argued that smartphones would not be capable of achieving the highest quality VR experience.

“We are focused on great gaming VR experiences,” he said. “I haven’t seen a cellphone or mobile-based VR experience that really gets our content teams excited.”

House said, beyond gaming, Sony is looking into TV and film and will also concentrate on seeking “ways of bringing much more static experiences to life” in areas such as museums and planetariums.

Sony has said it is working with more than 230 developers globally, and expects over 50 titles by the end of the year, include non-gaming content such as cartoons and music, karaoke and landscape videos.

 

Twitter Launches New Video Streaming Service

September 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

twitter-jack-dorsey-150x150Twitter Inc rolled out a new video streaming application for Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc TV platforms, as well as Microsoft Corp’s Xbox One gaming console as it brings its video content to the forefront.

The application will also be available for users of these devices without a Twitter account or a pay-TV subscription, the company said.

The application will feature video content from a number of Twitter’s partners, including the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, as well as curated tweets and shorter video from its Vine and Periscope services.

The news comes a day ahead of the first of the 10 NFL Thursday night games that Twitter obtained streaming rights for in April.

Jack Dorsey-led Twitter has made a significant push into video, signing deals with several media companies and sports organizations to stream major events.

Twitter To Further Loosen 140 Character Limit In Tweets

September 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

twitter-logo-4-150x150Twitter reportedly will further relax restrictions on its 140-character limit for tweets as soon as next week.

Reports emerged in June that Twitter was looking to expand its character limit – maybe even giving users a 10,000-character limit. But while a change may be in the offing, it doesn’t look to be nearly that dramatic.

According to The Verge, Twitter will make a change to its character limit on Sept. 19.

The company will not exactly expand the number of characters it allows, but will stop counting some things, like images, GIFs and videos, against the limit. Twitter may also stop counting user names at the beginning of replies.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, the change would be a good thing.

“It’s certainly a small difference, but I know I appreciate it,” he said. “I like the discipline of the character limit, but I don’t like having to try and fit in names and links.”
However, Gottheil wouldn’t want to see Twitter do away with the limit all together.

“Sometimes you want more room, but that would happen with any limit, and not having a limit would make it a totally different experience,” he said. “So you live with 140, but it’s nice that it will be 140 for what you write, not 140 less things like names. It will also encourage you to include more names, which should add to the community feel.”

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said such a shift by Twitter could lead to more.

“Users want more room to tweet when they’ve added something like a picture or video,” he added. “This could be the start of something they could build momentum around…. Recently, Twitter has been taking more steps backwards than forward. Twitter isn’t growing, and in social media if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking. To make progress, they need momentum to move them forward and this move could be a start.”

 

New Apple Watch Focuses On Fitness

September 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

apple-watch-2-150x150Two years after rolling out the Apple Watch with apps and styles that courted every customer, Apple Inc has honed its marketing strategy, debuting a second generation product aimed squarely at the health and athletic audience.

The focus on fitness will enhance the watch’s appeal to its core audience but also cements its status as a niche device, analysts said.

“Apple is responding to what has resonated with customers,” said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research. “The problem is there are only so many people who want to wear a health and fitness device. If they want this to be really massive, they’re going to have to go broader.”

The first new device released under Chief Executive Tim Cook, the Apple Watch has not attracted a mass audience, selling 1.6 million units in the second quarter, down more than half from a year ago, in the run-up to the new version, IDC data showed.

Apple’s original pitch touted the ability to send doodles, make phone calls and track fitness, while the company described it as essentially a fashion accessory.

But at a San Francisco launch event on Wednesday, where the iPhone 7 also debuted, Apple Watch videos, advertisements and demos focused narrowly on features for health enthusiasts, with the notable exception of a Pokemon Go app.

The new Watch starts at $369, includes a GPS chip, and is waterproof. Apple designed a special edition with sports giant Nike Inc.

Exercise buffs on social media cheered the new features, particularly the internal GPS system designed for runners who want to track workouts without dragging along their phones.

“At last Apple Watch is something I can use as a runner,” Ian Bignell (@eyan_b) wrote on Twitter.

Still, the device is likely to remain a niche offering, said Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Partners.

“It’s becoming a more interesting product, but it is not going to be able to meaningfully impact the bottom line if iPhones slow down,” Gillis said.

 

Facebook To Launch Satellite For Internet Connectivity

September 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

FB-Logo-150x150Facebook will launch a satellite later this week that it hopes will bring Internet connectivity to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned the launch during a town hall discussion in Lagos, Nigeria with developers and members of the Facebook community.

While talking about building an infrastructure that would enable people anywhere in the world to access a signal, Zuckerberg said Facebook is launching a satellite to beam down connectivity.

“If you want to connect everyone in the world, then making sure that everyone has access to the Internet is a really important thing,” Zuckerberg told the group in Nigeria. “It turns out that across the world, more than half of people don’t have access to the Internet. Here in Nigeria that’s true too.”

In a visit to Africa largely focused on spurring entrepreneurship and developers, the Facebook CEO said he’s been inspired by what the people he has met this week are trying to build, like the LifeBank app that is focused on mobilizing, inventorying and delivering blood donations.

“Whether what you care about is connecting people with their friends and family or helping people start business, the Internet is one of the most fundamental parts of infrastructure that needs to exist,” he said.

SpaceX, one of the companies that launches cargo ships to the International Space Station, is set to launch the satellite for Facebook at 3 a.m. ET Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Facebook is using space on the Amos 6 communications satellite, owned by Israeli-based Spacecom. The satellite is launching on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The effort would fit with the company’s expansive efforts to bring Internet connectivity to more of the world. Facebook executives frequently note that about 4 billion people around the globe – or 60% — lack access to an Internet connection.

 

Privacy Advocates Complain To FTC Over WhatsApp Privacy Policy Changes

August 31, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

WhatsApp-logo-150x150Privacy groups in the U.S. have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission that changes last week in WhatsApp’s terms and privacy policy reneges on its previous promise that user data collected would not be used or disclosed for marketing purposes.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy have described the changes as an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to an investigation and injunction by the FTC, in their complaint Monday.

WhatsApp said last week it will be sharing some account information of users with Facebook and its companies,including the mobile phone numbers they verified when they registered with WhatsApp. The sharing of information will enable users to see better friend suggestions and more relevant ads on Facebook, it added.

Messages, photos, and account information shared on the messaging app would not be shared on Facebook or any of the Facebook family of apps for others to see, WhatsApp said.

For Facebook, which paid $22 billion for WhatsApp, the changes are an attempt by the social networking company to earn revenue from the platform.

The company that Facebook acquired some two years ago is likely to claim that it is not in violation of any promise made previously as it is giving users the choice to opt out of the new program.

Users are being prompted to tap to “Agree” to the updated terms of service and privacy policies. They can also opt out within 30 days on the account settings by unchecking the relevant box or toggling the control regarding sharing of account information.

If users opt out, “the Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities,” the company said.

 

Facebook’s Trending Feature Goes To The Bots

August 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Facebook-logo-3-150x150Facebook Inc made updates to its popular “Trending” feature, which shows users the most-talked about topics of the day, to make it more automated and further eliminate the potential for human bias, the company wrote in a blog post.

The update is Facebook’s latest attempt in recent months to stress its neutrality as its influence grows.

The feature came under scrutiny in May after a news report alleged it suppressed conservative news, which prompted a demand from Republican members of the U.S. Congress for more transparency. Facebook said an internal probe found no evidence of bias.

The Trending feature shows users the most-talked about stories and topics on the top right-hand corner of Facebook’s home page with one-sentence descriptions. To eliminate the potential for bias, Facebook said it would no longer rely on editors to write descriptions for the topics and would instead show users the topic and how many people are discussing it.

Facebook said in an e-mailed statement that the composition of its Trending team would focus more on technical expertise since it no longer needed editors to write descriptions. The company did not say whether it was laying off employees.

Facebook maintains it is a neutral platform, but its political influence has come under scrutiny, especially as its user base swells. It has 1.7 billion people on its social network, and studies have shown it has the power to influence people’s behavior, ranging from registering as organ donors to registering to vote.

After the May news report first surfaced, Facebook penned a lengthy blog post explaining how the Trending feature works, the first time it had done so. Less than two weeks later, the company said it changed some procedures and outlined those changes in an effort to be more transparent.

Android Malware Using Twitter To Communicate With Infected Phones

August 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Twitter-on-smartphones-150x150Twitter users aren’t the only ones getting updates from the micro-blogging social media site. One maker of Android malware is also using Twitter to communicate with infected smartphones, according to security firm ESET.

The company uncovered the feature in a malicious app called Android/Twitoor. It runs as a backdoor virus that can secretly install other malware on a phone.

Typically, the makers of Android malware control their infected smartphones from servers. Commands sent from those servers can create a botnet of compromised phones and tell the malware on all the phones what to do.

The makers of Android/Twitoor decided to use Twitter instead of servers to communicate with the infected phones. The malware routinely checks certain Twitter accounts and reads the encrypted posts to get its operating commands.

Lukas Stefanko, an ESET researcher, said in a blog post that this was an innovative approach.  It removes the need to maintain a command and control server, and the communications with the Twitter accounts can be hard to discover.

“It’s extremely easy for the crooks to re-direct communications to another freshly created account,” he said.

ESET said this was first Twitter-controlled Android botnet it had ever found. Windows-based botnets using Twitter have been around since at least 2009.

ESET said Android/Twitoor hasn’t been detected in any app stores, so it probably spreads through malicious links sent to the victim. The malware pretends to be a porn player or multimedia messaging app, and it’s only been active for about a month.

So far, Android/Twitoor has been found downloading versions of mobile banking malware to users’ phones.

“In the future, we can expect that the bad guys will try to make use of Facebook statuses or deploy LinkedIn and other social networks,” Stefanko added.

HipChat Adds Videocalling Feature

August 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Hipchat-video-calls-150x150It just became easier for HipChat customers to see one another whenever they want it. The company launched new group video calling and screen sharing functionality that lets up to 10 other people share a virtual face-to-face meeting.

Users can spin up a call in a HipChat channel, or bring additional people into a one-on-one video call. That way, people who work in far-flung teams can get onto the same page face-to-face, using the same software that they count on for text chat during the day.

HipChat’s announcement Thursday is a move to compete with both consumer services like Skype and Google Hangouts, as well as workplace videoconferencing systems like Lifesize and Skype for Business. The launch is particularly important for HipChat’s competition with Slack, which recently added group voice calls and has video calling on its roadmap.

Group video calls are only available for teams that pay for HipChat Plus, which costs $2 per user per month.

The new video calling features are based on technology HipChat vendor Atlassian acquired with the JitSi open source video-conferencing product. The company still makes the open source version available, but this integration brings video calling into HipChat natively.

Right now, group video calling is only available on HipChat’s desktop apps, but it will make its way to mobile in some form in the future.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Slack can answer with video calling features of its own, after the high-flying productivity startup acquired screen sharing company Screenhero in January 2015.

Some teams may still find themselves in need of dedicated videoconferencing services, if they use specialized hardware for video meetings or if their needs exceed what HipChat can offer. For example, meetings in HipChat can’t have moderators with special privileges, and are limited to 10 participants at launch.

 

Intel Goes Deeper Into A.I. With Nervana

August 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has acquired artificial intelligence (AI) startup Nervana Systems in a bid to future-proof its data centre business and shift focus away from the flailing PC market.

Intel hasn’t revealed the financial details of the deal, but Recode reported that the company paid “more than $400m”, citing an anonymous source.

Nervana, a 48-person firm based in San Diego, California led by co-founder Naveen Rao, a former Qualcomm researcher, was founded in 2014 and offers a fully optimized software and hardware stack for deep learning.

The firm’s cloud-based service allows businesses to build and deploy applications that make use of deep learning, and Nervana has developed a custom processor, known as an ASIC, especially for deep learning.

Intel is looking to the firm to bolster its own deep learning credentials, betting big on the fact that AI represents the next big shift in corporate data centres. The purchase also sees the firm moving away from the PC market, which hasn’t been going too well for Intel lately.

Diane Bryant, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Centre Group, said: “I’m excited to announce that Intel signed a definitive agreement to acquire Nervana Systems, a recognized leader in deep learning.

“Their IP and expertise in accelerating deep learning algorithms will expand Intel’s capabilities in the field of AI. We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimise the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry-standard frameworks.

“Nervana’s engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and TCO of Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi processors.”

Rao added: “The semiconductor integrated circuit is one of humanity’s crowning achievements and Intel has the best semiconductor technology in the world.

“Nervana’s AI expertise combined with Intel’s capabilities and huge market reach will allow us to realize our vision and create something truly special.”

Intel’s acquisition of Nervana comes just days after Apple scooped up an AI startup called Turi. The firm handed over £150m for the Seattle-based firm, according to reports.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Chrome Sets December As Deadline For Purging Flash Content

August 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has set an early December deadline for removing most Flash content from its Chrome browser, adding that it will take an interim step next month when it stops rendering Flash-based page analytics.

In a post to a company blog, Anthony LaForge, a technical program manager on the Chrome team, said the browser would refuse to display virtually all Flash content starting with version 55, which is scheduled for release the week of Dec. 5.

Previously, Google had used a broader deadline of this year’s fourth quarter for quashing all Flash content except for that produced by a select list of 10 sites, including Amazon, Facebook and YouTube.

Another anti-Flash change will reach Chrome with version 53, now slated to ship the week of Sept. 5. At that time, Chrome will stop rendering very small Flash elements, which are invisible to users but generate data for Web analytics platforms.

LeForge’s latest deadlines were what will probably be among the closing moves in Chrome’s years-long campaign to eradicate Flash. Like other browser makers — including Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla — Google has championed the elimination of Adobe’s once-dominant media player by arguing that it results in longer laptop battery life, faster page rendering and improved security.

Apple’s Safari has frozen some Flash content since 2013, and will beat Chrome to the no-Flash milestone when it ships Safari 10 with macOS Sierra between now and October: Then, Safari will default to HTML5 and only alert users that a site supports just Flash with a message that they need to download the plug-in. Microsoft’s Edge — Windows 10’s default browser — froze some Flash content in the version bundled with last week’s 1607 upgrade.

Mozilla has only begun to restrict Flash content inside its Mozilla browser. While the open-source developer has said it will require users next year to manually activate the Flash Player plug-in, it has not revealed a timetable for more drastic constraints, like those Google announced.

 

 

Linux Botnets Appear To Be On The Rise

August 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Kaspersky Lab is warning that the Linux botnet is not only a thing but on the rise.

The report said that the share of attacks from Linux botnets almost doubled (to 70 per cent) – and Linux bots are the most effective tool for the SYN-DDoS attack method. This is the first time that Kaspersky DDoS Intelligence has registered such an imbalance between the activities of Linux- and Windows-based DDoS bots.

SYN DDoS is one of the most common attack scenarios, but the proportion of attacks using the SYN DDoS method increased 1.4 times compared to the previous quarter and accounted for 76 per cent.

Oleg Kupreev, lead malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab said that it is Linux which is to blame.

“Linux servers often contain common vulnerabilities but no protection from a reliable security solution, making them prone to bot infections”, says. “These factors make them a convenient tool for botnet owners. Attacks carried out by Linux-based bots are simple but effective; they can last for weeks, while the owner of the server has no idea it is the source of an attack. Moreover, by using a single server, cybercriminals can carry out an attack equal in strength to hundreds of individual computers. That’s why companies need to be prepared in advance for such a scenario, ensuring reliable protection against DDoS attacks of any complexity and duration”.

Brazil, Italy and Israel all appeared among the leading countries hosting botnet Command and Control (C&C) servers. South Korea is the clear leader in terms of the number of C&C servers located on its territory, with its share amounting to 70 per cent. Brazil, Italy and Israel saw the amount of active C&C servers hosted in these countries nearly triple.

DDoS attacks affected resources in 70 countries over the report period, with targets in China suffering the most (77 per cent of all attacks). Germany and Canada both dropped out of the top 10 rating of most targeted countries, to be replaced by France and the Netherlands.

The report also identifies an increase in the duration of DDoS attacks. While the proportion of attacks that lasted up to four hours fell from 68 per cent in Q1 to 60 percent in Q2, the proportion of longer attacks grew considerably – those lasting 20-49 hours accounted for nine per cent (and those lasting 50-99 hours accounted for four per cent (one per cent in Q1).

The longest DDoS attack in Q2 2016 lasted 291 hours (12 days), an increase on the Q1 maximum of eight days.

Courtesy-Fud

 

SMS Messaging For Two-factor Authentication Could Be Short-lived

July 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

SMS messaging for two-factor authentication days may be numbered. A federal agency is discouraging its use.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is recommending changes be made. The latest draft of its Digital Authentication Guideline, updated on Monday, warns that SMS messages can be intercepted or redirected, making them vulnerable to hacking.

Many companies, including Twitter, Facebook and Google, as well as banks, already use the phone-based text messaging to add an extra layer of security to user accounts.

It works like this: To access the accounts, the user not only needs the password, but also a secret code sent by the company by text message. Ideally, these one-time passcodes are sent to a designated phone number to ensure no one else will read them.

But even so, hackers have still found ways to trick the system. In the past, they’ve used malware to infect smartphones, and secretly redirect the SMS messages to another device.

It’s unclear how the tech industry might react to the federal agency’s proposal. But cybersecurity vendors are already coming up with ways to better secure user accounts and devices through fingerprint recognition, hardware tokens and other methods.

Twitter Still Struggling To Add New User, Grow Revenue

July 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc reported its slowest revenue growth since its IPO in 2013 and set a rather grim forecast, fanning concerns that faster growing social media services will make it a niche product.

The microblogging service operator’s shares fell 11 percent in extended trading to $16.40. While Twitter struggles to find a way to boost user growth and win over advertisers, social media services such as Instagram and Snapchat are expanding their footprints.

Co-founder Jack Dorsey returned to the company as chief executive a year ago, but his plan for reviving Twitter is at best seen as unfinished.

The company’s second quarter revenue missed Wall Street estimates and the revenue forecast for the current quarter of $590 million to $610 million was well below the average analyst estimate of $678.18 million.

Twitter’s user base increased about 1 percent to 313 million average monthly active users in the second quarter from 310 million in the first quarter.

“Clearly, the turnaround is still a work in progress and the question of whether being a platform for a mass audience versus a niche audience needs to be answered,” said James Cakmak, analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

Earlier this year, Twitter laid out a long-term strategy to turn around its business, focusing on five areas: its core service, live-streaming video, the site’s “creators and influencers,” safety and developers.

In live video, the company has signed deals with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association to revive user growth and attract more advertising dollars. Executives also said Twitter was investing more in user safety as the company continues to grapple with high-profile instances of abuse and harassment.

Struggling with flat user growth and lower spending by advertisers, Twitter has doubled down on attracting more people and encouraging existing advertisers to spend more as it tries to shape its stagnating business.

“We are a year into Dorsey coming back and there is really no end in sight of when it is going to start picking up to where investors are going to be happy,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Twitter is also working to better define its role in the social media landscape. This week it rolled out a video ad that showed it as the place to go for live news, updates and discussion about current events, which executives also emphasized on a call with analysts.

 

More Than Half The World Remains Off The Internet

July 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

About 3.9 billion people, or 53 percent of the population still remains offline at the end of this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union estimates. Even in Europe, the most connected region, 20.9 percent of all people aren’t online. In Africa, the least connected continent, 74.9 percent are offline.

Those figures are part of the annual statistical report from the agency, which is part of the United Nations. The report also showed there’s still a huge divide between rich and poor countries, and a growing gap between men and women, when it comes to internet access. It shows that efforts by companies like Google and Facebook to get all people connected could take a long time.

While more than four out of five people in developed countries use the internet, just over 40 percent of those in developing countries have access. In the ITU’s “least developed countries” — places like Haiti, Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia — just 15.2 percent of the people are online.

Also, fewer women than men are on the internet, and that difference is getting worse. The worldwide difference between internet user penetration for males and females is 12.2 percent, up from 11.0 percent in 2013, the ITU says. It’s shrunk significantly in developed countries, from 5.8 percent to just 2.8 percent, but grown in poorer places.

Cost makes it harder to get online in some countries. The ITU says entry-level internet access has become affordable in many developing countries since 2011 but remains unaffordable in most of the poorest countries. By the ITU’s definition, that means internet service costs more than 5 percent of average monthly income.

 

 

 

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