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Facebook Rolled Out Updates For Mobile Profiles

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc introduced updates to mobile profile pages to enable users to better personalize their profiles and more easily control their privacy settings.

Facebook has been looking to improve and ease its mobile profile experience as it makes more of its $10 billion-plus in annual ad revenue off of phones. The updates also come during New York City’s 12th Advertising Week, where Facebook is courting the world’s largest advertisers and companies.

Among the new features are profile videos, or a short looping video clip that users can create in place of a static profile picture. The feature is similar to Vine, a video sharing app owned by Twitter Inc.

Users can also set a temporary profile picture that reverts to their old picture at a specified time. Those who want to support a sports team or charitable cause for a specific week, for example, can choose a picture to display for a short time period.

Facebook also introduced more ways to control privacy settings so that users can curate what pieces of information are public and which are only viewable to “friends,” or people that they have allowed to view profiles.



Facebook Pursuing TV Advertisers For Its Network

September 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc unveiled a slew of new advertising products on Sunday, most of which are aimed at luring television advertisers onto the 1.5-billion user social network.

The advertising options, most of which will also be available on Facebook-owned Instagram, are designed to take advantage of the social network’s strengths on mobile devices. It has the world’s most popular smartphone app and generates more than three-quarters of its $10 billion-plus in annual ad revenue on phones.

Facebook is trying to convince advertisers, especially those who use video, that their dollars will be better spent on mobile platforms rather than on TV as users, especially millennials, spend more time on their phones than watching television. The rollout of the new products come ahead of New York City’s 12th Advertising Week, which runs from Monday to Friday and gathers the world’s largest advertisers and companies. Facebook also announced on Sunday that it has 2.5 million active advertisers in total, up from 2 million in February.

Digital video advertising spending is growing rapidly, projected to increase 13 percent to nearly $15 billion by 2019, according to eMarketer. Television ad spending, by comparison, is expected to grow 2 percent in the same time period to $78 billion. “Facebook is listening to the ad community and giving them what they are looking for,” said Debra Aho Williamson, social media marketing analyst with eMarketer. “Does Facebook want video ad dollars? Yes.”

On television, advertisers can buy ads based on how many people they will reach, an approach Facebook has adopted to ease the transition between television spending and digital spending.

In addition, it can target highly specific audiences, such as women aged 18 to 35 years old who have shopped on a specific website, which TV cannot do.



Google Upgrades Voice Search

September 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google said it has constructed a better neural network that is making its voice search work faster and better in noisy environments.

“We are happy to announce that our new acoustic models are now used for voice searches and commands in the Google app (on Android and iOS), and for dictation on Android devices,” Google’s Speech Team wrote in a recent  blog post . “In addition to requiring much lower computational resources, the new models are more accurate, robust to noise, and faster to respond to voice search queries.”

In 2013, Google brought the same voice recognition tools that had been working in Google Now to Google Search.

Along with being able to find information on the Internet, Google Voice Search also was able to find information for users in their Gmail, Google Calendar and Google+ accounts.

At the 2013 Google I/O developers conference, Amit Singhai, today a senior vice president and Google Fellow, said the future of search is in voice. For Google, he said, future searches will be more like conversations with your computer or device, which also will be able to give you information before you even ask for it.

The company went on to make it clear that it would continue to focus on voice search.

And this week’s announcement backs that up.

Google explained in its blog post that it has updated the neural network it’s using for voice search. A neural network is a computer system based on the way the human brain and nervous system work. It generally uses many processors operating in parallel.

The improved neural network is able to consume the incoming audio in larger chunks than conventional models without performing as many calculations.

“With this, we drastically reduced computations and made the recognizer much faster,” the team wrote. “We also added artificial noise and reverberation to the training data, making the recognizer more robust to ambient noise.”



Instagram Dethrones Twitter As Second Biggest Social Network

September 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Instagram celebrated a milestone this week, logging more than 400 million monthly users, solidly blowing past rival Twitter.

Instagram, a five-year-old site for posting and photos and video online, has solidly surpassed rival Twitter to claim the No. 2 spot in the social networking world – behind parent company Facebook.

“Given that Facebook owns Instagram, that certainly makes them the king of the social networking mountain,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “Instagram is aimed squarely at mobile devices, and that makes it very easy for users to shoot and post very quickly. It also has the patina of ‘cool’ with hip users — mainly arising from young users adopting it as their own.”

Instagram is gaining momentum. In December of last year, the company said it reached the 300 million monthly user mark. Less than a year later, the site has added another 100 million active users.

Despite the surge in monthly users, Instagram is still far behind Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than 1 billion worldwide users.

However, the numbers put Instagram beyond Twitter, which in June reported316 million active monthly users. Instagram is also well ahead of Google+, which reportedly has about 300 million active monthly users.

“While milestones like this are important, what really excites us is the way that visual communication makes the world feel a little bit smaller to every one of us,” Instagram wrote in a blog post. “Our community has evolved to be even more global, with more than 75% living outside of the U.S. To all the new Instagrammers: welcome!”

Among the last 100 million to join, more than half live in Europe and Asia, the company noted. The countries that added the most Instagram users include Brazil, Japan and Indonesia.



Facebook At Work Gears Up For Enterprise Users

September 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

It may not be long before you can use it at work without getting in trouble for accessing social media.

Facebook is expanding the beta test of its social network for the enterprise and hopes to launch it in the next few months.

The company confirmed to Computerworld that Facebook at Work – a desktop service and mobile app designed to connect people in an enterprise – is expected to be available for free before the end of the year.

“We’re currently rolling out Facebook at Work to hundreds of more companies,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. “We’re still in test mode but hope to launch more broadly in the coming months. Companies of all sizes are testing Facebook at Work and seeing early signs of increased productivity both on desktop and mobile.”

The enterprise-focused service has been in beta with about 100 companies since January, though the build-out of the project has been in the works for nearly a year.

Facebook at Work is reportedly designed to give users the same look, feel and functions as the personal social network they’re likely fairly familiar with. However, the company has said users’ enterprise pages won’t be connected with their personal pages and information won’t be shared between them.

The company, though it carries a lot of muscle as the world’s largest social network, is getting into an enterprise collaboration market with some hefty competitors, including Cisco Systems, Microsoft’s Yammer, Slacker, Jive Software and IBM.

While Facebook has tremendous name recognition, the question remains whether companies will welcome it into their walled-off confines, especially considering Facebook’s history of privacy gaffs and penchant for videos of puppies and kids.




Are the iPhone 6s Sales Really Off The Chart?

September 22, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

The Apple Press has been flat out claiming that the iPhone 6S is doing really well, based on the word of Apple CEO Tim Cook – however one analyst is unconvinced.

Andy Hargreaves of Pacific Crest has warned his clients that demand for the iPhone 6S may be meaningfully lower than last year’s model.

Hargreaves of Pacific Crest based his figures on Google search volume, device shipments availability, and third-party surveys.

He added that a lack of quantitative statements from Apple and the wireless carriers all point to weak iPhone demand.

Hargreaves is one of the top analysts on Wall Street. His picks average a 33 percent one-year return with a 70 percent success rate and he is ranked in the top 1 percent of all analysts, according to

“Apple’s statement appears to be a statement on supply. Relative to demand, the preponderance of data points suggests that demand for the iPhone 6s is lower than it was for the iPhone 6, possibly meaningfully so. This includes Google search data, device shipment times, third-party surveys, a lack of comments from carriers, and a lack of quantitative comment on pre-orders in Apple’s statement.”

iPhone 6S search volume is 75 percent below last year’s iPhone 6 and 25 percent lower than even the iPhone 5S according to Google Trends, said Hargreaves.

Needless to say the Tame Apple Press is furious. Fortune Magazine said it was amazing that the analyst referred to Google Search data as a way of calling BS on Tim Cook statement. After all Apple always tells the truth and never lies to its users.

However saner investment hacks who normally believe in Apple agree that Hargreaves is onto something.

It highlights fears in Wall Street that Apple relies too much in the Iphone. Weaker sales send a signal to the market that the company has lost its innovative bent and is beginning to lose its “cool factor,” it could also signal the end of Job’s Mob’s marvellous run as a growth stock.



Does AVG Respect Your Privacy?

September 22, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AVG has been answering questions about its new privacy policy after accusations that the firm is about to sell its users down the river.

A Reddit discussion has heard from furious users who spotted that the simplified policy effectively gives the company permission to sell its mailing lists to third parties for fun and profit.

AVG stated under ‘Do You Share My Data?’ in the Q&A about the new policy, which is automatically enforced on 15 October: “Yes, though when and how we share it depends on whether it is personal data or non-personal data. AVG may share non-personal data with third parties and may publicly display aggregate or anonymous information.”

AVG has hit back at the criticism in a blog post today, by which we mean confirmed that its stance is correct, explaining: “Usage data allows [AVG] to customize the experience for customers and share data with third parties that allow them to improve or develop new products.

“Knowing that 10 million users like a certain TV program gives broadcasters the data to get producers to make more of that type of program.

“This is also how taxi firms know how to distribute their fleets, and how advertisers know where to place banners and billboards, for example. Even at AVG, we have published non-personal information that we have collected regarding app performance.”

But AVG added in big, bold type: “We do not, and will not, sell personally identifiable data to anyone, including advertisers.”

This will placate some, but others fear that the lack of choice over this matter, which requires an active decision to opt out, is too clandestine. As ever, there are threats to move to everything from Linux Mint to the Commodore 64, some more serious than others.

Several Redditors have likened it to similar warnings in Windows 10′s Insider Programme which essentially say: ‘we can track you … but we won’t, unless we do.’


Internet Growth Rate Slowing, According To U.N. Study

September 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Growth in the number of people with access to the Internet is slowing, and more than half the world’s population remains offline, the United Nations Broadband Commission said on Monday.

Internet access in rich economies is reaching saturation levels but 90 percent of people in the 48 poorest countries have none, its report said.

The access growth rate is expected to slow to 8.1 percent this year, down from 8.6 percent in 2014. Until 2012, growth rates had been in double digits for years.

“We have reached a transition point in the growth of the Internet,” the report said.

The commission, set up in 2010 by the International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO, the U.N. scientific and cultural agency, said the milestone of four billion Internet users was unlikely to be passed before 2020.

It said growth in Facebook subscribers was outpacing growth in the Internet.

“Over half the world’s population – some 57 percent, or

more than 4 billion people – still do not use the Internet regularly or actively,” the report said.

It blamed the cost of extending last-mile infrastructure to rural and remote customers, and a sharp slowdown in the growth of mobile cellular subscriptions globally.

By the end of this year, 3.2 billion people will have some form of regular access to the Internet, up from 2.9 billion in 2014. That is 43.4 percent of the world’s population, still far short of a U.N. target of 60 percent by 2020.

Women in poorer countries were particularly disadvantaged, the report said. In the developing world, 25 percent fewer women than men had Internet access, a number that rises to 50 percent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Only about 5 percent of the world’s estimated 7,100 languages were represented on the Internet, the report said. Many Internet users could not understand Latin script, so even reading domain names was a challenge, it added.



Goldman Sachs Using Snapchat For Recruiting Workers

September 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

In its latest attempt to appeal to millennials, Goldman Sachs Group Inc released a series of quick-hit recruiting ads on Snapchat on Friday, becoming the first major Wall Street bank to turn to the instant-but-fleeting messaging app for potential hires.

The ads appear on Snapchat’s Campus Story function, a curated platform for user-generated contents such as pictures and videos at college campuses nationwide. Goldman’s 10-second recruitment clips appear between user-generated content segments.

In the videos, Goldman says it is seeking a “Campus Environmental Leader,” “Youth Sports Coach” or “Crowd Funding Champion,” and provides a link to

Only Snapchatters whose phones indicate they are in and around a campus, or were there in the last 24 hours, are able to post to and view the Campus Story.

Goldman’s efforts to reach out to millennials comes amid mounting indications that careers in banking and finance hold a diminishing appeal among recent graduates. Even at elite business programs like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the percentage of students opting for banking as a career is down by half or more since before the recession.

The move is the latest leg of Goldman’s bid to appeal to soon-to-be college grads and push back against the prevalent view of investment banking as an all-work-and-no-play career.

Goldman is also one of the few in the industry adding employees now. During the bank’s second-quarter earnings call, Goldman said its workforce grew 8 percent over the last four quarters, and rose 1 percent between March 31 and June 30. At the end of June, the bank had 34,900 employees.

Snapchat, which allows its more than 100 million users to send messages that disappear in seconds, is considered one of Silicon Valley’s most highly valued startups. As of May, the messaging app is valued at $16 billion.




Users Reporting Problems Upgrading To Apple’s iOS 9

September 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple has officially released iOS 9, but in the first hour users reported that they were unable to grab the 1GB download.

“Software Update Failed,” the message read on iPhones and iPads. “An error occurred downloading iOS 9.”Computerworld confirmed the problem, initially seeing it on multiple iOS 8 devices. But after several subsequent attempts, the download successfully started about an hour after Apple issued the upgrade.

Similar reports of early problems were posted on Apple’s own support forums and elsewhere on the Internet. “Not a very helpful error,” wrote someone identified as “yanic” on the former.

Others countered with snark. “Strangely, this is not a ‘limited time offer,’ said “stedman 1″ on the same thread, likely referring to Microsoft’s Windows 10 free upgrade offer, which is valid for one year. “The software will be available tomorrow, and the next day, and next week.”

Some advice ended up being more helpful. “You are facing an overloaded server which is pretty typical of the first day a software revision comes out,” contended “Ralph Landry1″ on a different discussion thread.

Several iPhone owners who had said that they were unable to download iOS 9 returned to the same forum threads to report they had gotten the upgrade later.

Apple’s track record with iOS releases has been mixed. Last year’s iOS 8 roll-out seemingly started off smoothly — there were few initial complaints about getting the upgrade — but many soon griped that 8′s large size forced them to wipe apps and content from their devices before they could install the new OS.
iOS 9′s size and the free space requirements for installation were both reduced to address that problem of last year. The free space demand for iOS 9 fell to 1.3GB to 1.8GB from last year’s 4.5GB to 5GB.

Facebook Users Cautious Of New ‘Dislike’ Button

September 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook users took to the social media site to express concern over the company’s decision to test what Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg called a “dislike button” – and not everyone liked the idea.

In a town hall-style question and answer session earlier in the week, Zuckerberg took questions from users about topics ranging from virtual reality to his wife’s pregnancy. Yet most Facebook users fixated on his announcement that the 1.5-billion user social network was working on adding a button other than “like.”

Users flooded Zuckerberg’s official Facebook page with nearly 3,000 comments largely about the dislike option. While some said they would use Facebook more if the button were introduced, others said it would lead to cyberbullying and more negativity on the site.

“Please don’t put a dislike button, as much as there is times I would love it, would much rather express my thoughts in words to be completely direct on my opinion,” said user Andrea Robichaud.

Users have been asking for a dislike button for several years, Zuckerberg said, though it may not necessarily be named dislike or be represented with a thumbs down. He added that the company was preparing to test a version of the button.

“Not every moment is a good moment,” Zuckerberg said.

The button’s aim, he said, would be to express empathy on posts that may reference topics where “like” is not the appropriate response, such as the refugee crisis or the death of a loved one.

Some users offered alternative suggestions that they thought would minimize harassment on the site, such as adding a “sympathy” button instead or allowing users to opt out of the “dislike” button on their posts.

Others took a more humorous approach. Vince Vogel suggested Facebook offer “public smile, private smile, private frown and public frown” instead of like and dislike.



Twitter, Stripe Team Up To Expand ‘Buy’ Button

September 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Payments processing company Stripe Inc unveiled a new tool on that will connect retailers and brands to sell on platforms like Twitter Inc and tap an increasing number of consumers shopping on mobile apps.

Twitter’s adoption of Stripe’s new product, Relay, is expected to help the microblogging site further dabble in e-commerce and generate revenue through its “buy buttons,” which lets shoppers buy a product and enter payment and shipping information without leaving Twitter’s platform.

Twitter has been struggling to increase its audience and in July said its number of monthly average users grew at its slowest pace since it went public in 2013.

“Almost two-thirds of our users say they bought something specifically because of what they saw on Twitter. … As mobile and social (media) continue to grow, consumers are going to discover and transact right in the apps where they spend their time every day,” Nathan Hubbard, Twitter’s head of commerce, said at a launch event in San Francisco, where both companies are based.

Stripe, which makes software that helps businesses accept various types of payments on websites and in apps, counts grocery-delivery startup Instacart, ride-sharing app Lyft and e-commerce platform Shopify among its clients.

The payments company’s new Relay product functions as a universal sell button for retailers, allowing companies like eyewear brand Warby Parker to list products in a single place and sell them directly on Twitter as well as other e-commerce platforms like ShopStyle.



Facebook Continues Impressive Growth Rate In Africa

September 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook has nearly 20 million users in major African markets Nigeria and Kenya, statistics released by the social network revealed on Thursday, with the majority using mobile devices to access their profiles.

Facebook opened its first African office in Johannesburg in June as the continent’s growing population and relatively low levels of internet access present a large untapped market for the social network to earn advertising revenue.

The numbers, the first Facebook has published for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and Kenya, East Africa’s most developed, show the two nations as important entry points on a continent of nearly one billion people.

Nigeria had 15 million monthly active users as of June 30 this year, all of them using mobiles to like, share and upload content on the social network. In Kenya, 95 percent of the 4.5 million monthly active users did so via mobiles.

“Mobile is not a trend; it’s the fastest adoption of disruptive technology in history of communication,” said Nunu Ntshingila, Facebook’s head of Africa, in a statement.

South Africa has 12 million monthly active Facebook users, the data showed, and Facebook says with its strong advertising partnerships in Africa it would use the new office in Johannesburg to expand its business across the continent.

Facebook said its active user population in Africa grew 20 percent to 120 million in June from 100 million in September last year. A large portion of these users were in North Africa.



Enterprise Storage Needs Driving Cloud Sales Boom

September 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The cloud continues to gain major ground, driven by enterprise storage needs.

Sales are way up for little-known manufacturers that sell directly to big cloud companies like Google and Facebook, while the market for traditional external storage systems is shrinking, according to research company IDC.

Internet giants and service providers typically don’t use specialized storage platforms in their sprawling data centers. Instead, they buy vast amounts of capacity in the form of generic hardware that’s controlled by software. As users flock to cloud-based services, that’s a growing business.

Revenue for original design manufacturers that sell directly to hyperscale data-center operators grew by 25.8 percent to more than US$1 billion in the second quarter, according to the latest global IDC report on enterprise storage systems. Overall industry revenue rose just 2.1 percent from last year’s second quarter, reaching $8.8 billion.

These so-called ODMs are low-profile vendors, many of them based in Taiwan, that do a lot of their business manufacturing hardware that’s sold under better known brand names. Examples include Quanta Computer and Wistron.

General enterprises aren’t buying many systems from these vendors, but the trends at work in hyperscale deployments are growing across the industry. Increasingly, the platform of choice for storage is a standard x86 server dedicated to storing data, according to IDC analyst Eric Sheppard. Sales of server-based storage rose 10 percent in the quarter to reach $2.1 billion.

Traditional external systems like SANs (storage area networks) are still the biggest part of the enterprise storage business, logging $5.7 billion in revenue for the quarter. But sales in this segment were down 3.9 percent.

Overall demand for storage capacity continued to grow strongly, with 37 percent more capacity shipped in the quarter compared with a year earlier.




Instagram Adds New Specialized Message Features

September 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc’s Instagram unveiled new features that will allow users to exchange messages in private and group conversations as the photo and video-sharing service attempts to keep up with growing messaging service Snapchat.

The upgrade by Instagram, which has more than 300 million users, is the latest move in the escalating battle for a young audience addicted to messaging with younger and hipper rival Snapchat, which has 100 million users and growing.

The new features mean Instagram users can share pictures directly with one friend or a group of people and send back text responses or pictures, which Instagram hopes will make users want to stay on its mobile app or web site longer.

Young mobile users are increasingly interested in messaging friends and having conversations online, rather than merely viewing content. As much as 40 percent of all comments on Instagram posts mention other accounts, Instagram said, suggesting that many users like to flag content to users they know and start conversations about it.

The move comes a week after Instagram upgraded its service to allow new layout options in addition to its signature square for pictures and videos, which was viewed as a move to compete better with Snapchat.

Snapchat, which is popular partly because messages on its platform disappear after a few seconds, already offered a variety of picture and video formats. Earlier this year, Snapchat upgraded its service so users could exchange text messages in response to photos and videos.

Many social sites and apps have added specialized messaging features recently in a bid to keep users.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, launched its Messenger service as a standalone app earlier this year, and added a virtual assistant called ‘M’ last week that can complete tasks for users such as shopping.