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Yahoo Beefs Up Mobile Search

June 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Yahoo is beefing up its search service on mobile devices, following Google’s lead by highlighting content such as images, videos and reviews ahead of regular search results

The changes will apply to Yahoo search on the mobile web in the U.S., in browsers such as Safari and Chrome. Yahoo’s mobile app and desktop site already provide some additional content within results.

A search on the mobile web for Barack Obama, for instance, displays information about him from Wikipedia, such as his height and birth date, as well as links to news, images and YouTube videos. In one search Thursday, the videos included some curious choices, including “Barack Obama is Illuminati.”

Google already highlights a variety of content related to search queries, including news and related tweets, as well as links to other services like Maps. Microsoft’s Bing does something similar.

Because Yahoo is playing catch-up, the changes might not attract many new users, but they could help it retain people who use Yahoo for mobile searches today.

In the last quarter of 2014, mobile accounted for half of Yahoo’s search traffic in North America, up from 32 percent during the same period in 2013, according to research firm eMarketer.

 

 

HBO To Offer Episodes Of New Shows On Facebook

June 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Premium cable network HBO said it would make available the premiere episodes of two new comedy series on Facebook, underlining the growing popularity of the social networking site as a video platform.

The popularity of web videos have led to U.S. networks experiment with new platforms to attract new viewers. With about 1.44 billion monthly active users, Facebook has become a sough-after outlet for companies looking to market their products via online videos, the fastest growing category of Internet ads.

Last week, Amazon.com Inc released the pilot episode of its show “Catastrophe” for a limited time on the social media network, instead of its own Prime Instant Video streaming service.

HBO, owned by Time Warner Inc, said on Wednesday viewers would be able to access the premiere episodes of Dwayne Johnson-starrer “Ballers” and “The Brink” on Facebook for a limited period. The two new original series premiered this past Sunday.

Turner Broadcasting, another Time Warner network, said in April it granted exclusive video-on-demand rights to its Cartoon Network and Adult Swim programs to video streaming service Hulu.

On Tuesday Hulu said it would soon allow users to add CBS Corp’s TV network Showtime to their subscriptions.

 

 

Facebook Allowing Users Without An Account To Use Messenger

June 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has begun allowing users without an account to sign up for its Messenger app with a phone number, the social media company said on Wednesday, in another move to broaden the app’s reach and make it a standalone platform.

Earlier this year, Facebook opened up Messenger to developers, and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted to connect users directly with retailers, restaurants and other businesses.

With the latest update, users will be prompted by an option that says “Not on Facebook?” when they open the app. They can then sign up with their name, phone number and a photo.

The mobile messaging service, which has 600 million users, has added a number of new features in recent months, including games and video calling.

Facebook’s flagship social network has 1.4 billion users.

 

 

 

Google Seeking Testers For Jump Virtual Reality Video Camera

June 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

If you’re an aspiring virtual reality content producer, Google is looking to give you a chance to test the Jump camera system it developed for recording video to be used in VR environments.

Individuals that are interested in trying their hand at capturing 360-degree video with Jump can fill out a form Google posted on Monday that asks basic biographical questions as well as details on how they would use the system.

Google didn’t say how many “select creators” it would chose, but those who are picked will be able to start using the 16-camera rig this summer.

Google seems especially interested in people with creative backgrounds. The jobs that people can select in the form’s occupation section include filmmaker, director, artist and production staff — but there is an “other” section that allows write-ins if none of the above apply.

There’s also a section where applicants can explain why they want to test Jump — and “awesome answers might put you at the top of the list,” Google said.

Google worked with GoPro to build Jump, which has 16 of the company’s Hero4 cameras attached to a circular frame. Jump’s price and availability weren’t provided when the rig was shown at Google’s I/O developer’s conference in May. However, given that a Hero4 camera retails for approximately US$500, initial Jump buyers will likely have deep pockets.

The first videos created with Jump will appear on YouTube this summer, Google said at I/O. People will be able to experience them via the Google Cardboard viewer.

 

 

Microsoft To Tweak Windows 10 Preview Program

June 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft announced that it would soon tweak the Windows 10 preview program as its engineers push toward the July 29 launch of the final code to customers.

As of the next build to the Windows Insider program, Microsoft will require that participants associate their Microsoft Account — typically the same username and password combination for accessing company services such as Outlook.com, OneDrive and Skype — with the preview on their PC.

“You’ll need to connect the MSA [Microsoft Account] that you registered for the Windows Insider Program with (and accepted the ‘Microsoft Windows Insider Program Agreement’) in order to continue receiving new Windows 10 Insider Preview builds (both Fast and Slow rings) from Windows Update,” wrote Gabriel Aul, the engineering general manager for Microsoft’s operating system group who regularly blogs about the preview.

Most testers have already done so, but those that haven’t need to toe the line. “We’re introducing new infrastructure in Windows Update to help us deliver new builds more effectively to Windows Insiders, and ensure that we’re flighting builds to people who have registered and opted in to the program,” said Aul.

Part of that move is due to the impending release of Windows 10, another to the fact that Microsoft will — contrary to past practices with beta programs — continue Insider after the initial launch.

Insider will then become Windows 10′s fastest release “branch” — Microsoft’s label for the multiple update cadences it will offer users — and receive new features, functionality and UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) changes before those on other tracks. Within Insider, users can select from different “rings” — subsets that denote how rough-edged the builds are — as they will be able to do if updating on the other tempos, “Current Branch” and “Current Branch for Business.”

Aul also reiterated what he had said previously on Twitter, that Insider participants would receive the July 29 first stable release starting that day.

 

 

 

Facebook Gaining On YouTube In Video Ad Race

June 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is catching up to YouTube as a destination for big companies to market their products via online videos, the fastest growing category of Internet ads, a report published on Monday said.

The competition for video viewers opens up a new front in the clash between the two web giants that already compete in other types of advertising given their appeal to young and international consumers, Ampere Analysis said in a study.

London-based Ampere predicts a new advertising “arms race” between the two rivals, neck and neck in terms of audience sizes with around 1.4 billion to 1.3 billion monthly active users, respectively for Facebook and YouTube. That means consumers are likely to be forced to see more ads, but also enjoy a richer range of video programming as a result, it said.

The Internet will overtake TV advertising in 12 key markets, representing 28 percent of global ad spending by 2017, separate research by media-buying firm Zenith Optimedia said on Monday. Ad spending is projected to reach $531 billion this year.

Online video is now growing faster than any other digital category or subcategory, rising 33 percent in 2014, and is forecast to grow 29 percent a year through 2017, Zenith said.

The two reports were released as the week-long Cannes Lions international advertising conference opens this week.

Ampere Analysis argues that Facebook is morphing from a platform most advertisers use for building general brand awareness to one that can deliver “pre-roll” advertisements that marketing companies prefer for ensuring their messages are actually viewed.

Currently, YouTube remains a more flexible marketing platform, offering advertisers the full range of video ads which run before, during or after a video program is shown.

“If the social network’s own video ambitions are to be realized, and if it is to convince content owners it is a viable alternative to YouTube, it must deliver comparable returns,” Ampere Research Director Richard Broughton said.

 

 

Twitter Acquires Machine-learning Company Whetlab

June 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

To beef up its in-house, machine-learning efforts, Twitter has purchased Whetlab, a startup that makes it easier for companies to use machine-learning tools.

As part of the acquisition, announced Wednesday, Twitter will discontinue Whetlab’s beta service on July 15, and will no longer accept sign-ups for the product. Current users will be able to export their data from Whetlabs’s website in either tab-separated format or JSON.

It’s not clear how Twitter plans to use Whetlab’s technology to enhance its existing machine-learning plans. However, the startup’s tool seems useful for any company implementing machine-learning techniques. The technology, which was developed by researchers at Harvard, Toronto and Sherbrooke universities, takes in information about the problem a user wants to solve with machine learning. It then gives the user a series of suggestions to help them optimize a machine-learning model to solve the problem.

Users don’t have to send Whetlab their data, nor do they need to use a special machine-learning toolkit, according to the company’s product page. “You can run your code on your own private machines at whatever scale you want. What we do is help you use those resources optimally by telling you what you should try next,” the page reads.

The acquisition makes sense for Twitter, which is trying to offer users more customized experiences to improve adoption of its microblogging service. Machine learning is likely critical to those initiatives, and acquiring technology that makes the application of machine-learning technology easier could benefit Twitter’s in-house development process.

 

 

Twitter To Add Auto-playing Videos In User Feeds

June 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter has come a long way from its foundation of 140-character messages. The site will now display videos that play automatically in users’ feeds.

Advertisers’ videos and those uploaded to Twitter natively through its new video recording tool will play automatically on the company’s desktop site and in its iOS app, with Android functionality coming soon, the company announced.

The changes also apply to videos recorded with Twitter’s Vine app and GIFs.

Autoplaying videos, though possibly annoying, will help Twitter compete against Facebook, which started placing autoplaying videos, including those from advertisers, in users’ feeds in 2013. Twitter makes the bulk of its money through advertising, and more Internet companies are looking to siphon video advertising dollars away from traditional TV.

On Twitter, the videos will start playing without sound unless they’re tapped on.

Twitter users who don’t want autoplaying videos can change their settings to revert to the click-to-play format. Users can also change their settings so videos only play automatically when they’re connected to Wi-Fi.

Users will not see auto-playing videos if they have a low bandwidth connection on their device, Twitter said.

Twitter is using the same amount of viewing time as Facebook to define a video “view”: three seconds.

Twitter began testing auto-playing videos earlier this year.

 

 

Facebook Planning New Irish Data Center

June 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook announced that it has decided to build a new data center in Ireland, the social network said on Monday, becoming the latest technology giant to open an energy efficient center in Ireland’s recovering economy.

Facebook said it had applied for planning permission to build the center, which, after Sweden, is its second in Europe for housing computers that run cloud computing services, where users store data on secure servers instead of their own network or computer.

Ireland is fast becoming a cloud hub helped by its temperate climate and the presence of many of the biggest internet companies, which have been attracted by the country’s low corporate tax rate.

Apple Inc said in February that it would spend 1.7 billion euros on two new data centers in Ireland and Denmark, its largest investment in Europe.

Google and Microsoft also have opened Irish date centers in recent years.

Microsoft is currently fighting a legal battle with the U.S. government over its demand that the software company turn over customer data stored in its Irish data center.

 

Google Launches ‘YouTube Gaming’

June 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Gaming

Google Inc said on Friday that it is unveiling a live streaming gaming service called “YouTube Gaming”, creating a rival to Amazon.com Inc’s  Twitch service.

The service, to be available in the form of an app as well as a website, will focus exclusively on gamers and gaming.

More than 25,000 games will each have their own page on the site, bringing videos and live streams about various titles together in a single space, Google said.

Users will be able to add games to their collection for quick access, subscribe to channels, and receive recommendations on new games based on the games and channels they follow.

“When you want something specific, you can search with confidence, knowing that typing “call” will show you “Call of Duty” and not “Call Me Maybe,” Google said in a blog post.

Amazon bought Twitch Interactive last year for $970 million, beating a rival bid from Google.

“We welcome new entrants into the growing list of competitors since gaming video is obviously a huge market that others have their eye on,” said Matthew DiPietro, Twitch’s vice president of marketing.

Twitch also tweeted a welcome message to its rival, saying, “@YouTubeGaming Welcome Player 2. Add me on Google +. #kappa”

“Kappa” is an emoticon used mostly by Twitch users to convey sarcasm.

YouTube Gaming will available on the web, mobiles and tablets on both Android and iOS operating systems, according to a tweet from its official account.

The service will launch this summer, starting in the United States and UK.

 

 

PayPal Re-considering Robocalls, Unsoliticed Text Messages

June 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

After much criticism, PayPal seems to be re-thinking a plan to give itself unilateral permission to ping its users with robocalls and text messages.

The controversy started when PayPal recently indicated in proposed amendments to its user agreement and privacy policy its intention to engage in this type of communication with its customers. There, it also stated that the only opt-out recourse for those in disagreement with its plan would be to close their accounts.

The plan drew attention from critics who, in blogs and on social media, questioned the prudence and legality of the new policy, which is slated to go into effect July 1. If the changes are adopted, PayPal would be able to make autodialed and prerecorded calls, and send text messages using any telephone number account holders have provided to PayPal or that the company has “otherwise obtained.”

PayPal says it may contact users for numerous reasons, which include troubleshooting account problems, resolving disputes and collecting debts. But the calls may also be made to advertise offers and promotions, or to conduct user surveys.

Federal Communications Commission rules state that unsolicited robocalls are only legal if a company has obtained written or oral consent from consumers. In a post on financial education and services site Credit.com, syndicated columnist, book author and self-described consumer advocate Bob Sullivan questioned whether a change in PayPal’s terms legally constitutes consent.

Plus, the policy, as it reads, provides no way for users to opt out, aside fromclosing their account.

Now a PayPal spokesman’s tone has changed. “Our policy is to honor customers’ requests to decline to receive auto-dialed or prerecorded calls,” he said.

The spokesman wouldn’t say how users would be able to opt out, or when. He said the company is planning to provide more details and address this issue in a blog post, although he couldn’t say when that will be published.

The new stance comes as PayPal prepares to split from parent company eBay, and establish itself as an independent publicly traded company.

Federal regulators are also preparing to vote on new rules that would make it easier for consumers to say no to telemarketing and robocalling.

 

 

 

 

Is Yahoo Axing Services?

June 8, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has been quietly axing shedloads of its services, claiming that its focus is on “search, communications and digital content” to cover a cull which is a bit like a Game of Thrones Wedding.

First to go was maps.yahoo.com (a.k.a. Yahoo Maps) at the end of June. Though maps will live on within Yahoo search and Flickr in some fashion.

Yahoo maps has been around for eight years, and probably did not get the same level of attention that Google or Microsoft managed.

Support for Yahoo Mail on the built-in Mail app on Apple devices running iOS older than Version 5 as of June 15 is also toast.

Yahoo Chief Architect Amotz Maimon said that if you use iOS 4 & earlier, you can continue to use Yahoo Mail on their Safari mobile browser at mail.yahoo.com.

Yahoo Pipes, a tool for building visually-enticing Web apps from feeds, pages and other services, will no longer by supported as of August. 30.

GeoPlanet and PlaceSpotter APIs are being retired. Media funtions which we never new existed such as Yahoo Music in France and Canada, will be axed.

Xobni email app it has acquired, along with the Yahoo toolbar on Chrome and the Yahoo People Search directory has gone the way of the dodo.

All these seem to be reasonably useful functions which most people didn’t know about because they were on Yahoo.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook To Require Stronger Digital Signature For Apps

June 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook will require application developers to adopt a more secure type of digital signature for their apps, which is used to verify a program’s legitimacy.

As of Oct. 1, apps will have to use SHA-2 certificate signatures rather than ones signed with SHA-1. Both are cryptographic algorithms that are used to create a hash of a digital certificate that can be mathematically verified.

Apps that use SHA-1 after October won’t work on Facebook anymore, wrote Adam Gross, a production engineer at the company, in a blog post.

“We recommend that developers check their applications, SDKs, or devices that connect to Facebook to ensure they support the SHA-2 standard,” Gross wrote.

SHA-1 has been considered weak for about a decade. Researchers have shown it is possible to create a forged digital certificate that carries the same SHA-1 hash as legitimate one.

The type of attack, called a hash collision, could trick a computer into thinking it is interacting with a legitimate digital certificate when it actually is a spoofed one with the same SHA-1 hash. Using such a certificate could allow an attacker to spy on the connection between a user and an application or website.

Microsoft, Google, Mozilla and other organizations have also moved away from SHA-1 and said they will warn users of websites that are using a connection that should not be trusted.

The Certificate and Browser Forum, which developers best practices for web security, has recommended in its Baseline Requirements that digital certificate issuers stop using SHA-1 as of Jan. 1.

 

 

FBI Seeking Wiretapping Laws To Cover Social Media

June 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Encrypted social networking tools are handicapping the FBI’s ability to track terrorists and recruiters who are appealing to young people in the U.S., an FBI official told lawmakers.

Congress must pass a new wiretap law that requires social media websites and operators of other Internet communication tools to share customers’ communications with law enforcement agencies the same way that telecom carriers do, Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, said Wednesday.

Congress should use the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) as a model for new rules focused on Internet-based communications, Steinbach told the U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee. His comments build upon the FBI’s call in recent months to expand CALEA to Internet communications tools. Agency Director James Comey first called for a CALEA rewrite to cover encrypted mobile phone data last October.

CALEA requires telecom carriers and equipment vendors to build wiretap capabilities into their products or networks, and critics have accused the FBI of wanting Congress to mandate encryption backdoors in technology products. But the FBI isn’t asking for backdoors, Steinbach said.

“We’re not talking about large-scale surveillance techniques,” he said. “We’re not looking at going through a backdoor or being nefarious; we’re talking about going to the company and asking for their assistance.”

Instead, the FBI wants access to stored or ongoing Internet communications after it shows evidence of criminal or terrorist activity and gets a court order, he said. The FBI needs help from Congress and from communications providers to make that happen, Steinbach said.

“We understand privacy,” he said. “Privacy above all other things, including safety and freedom from terrorism, is not where we want to go.”

 

 

 

Google Increases Privacy Controls For Users

June 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has enhanced privacy controls for users and launched a website that answers frequently asked questions in response to increasing concern over how the search giant collects and uses its massive amounts of data.

Users have been able to control certain privacy settings for months or years, such as whether to save web browser and location history, which is also used in targeted advertising.

But managing the controls is confusing and time consuming because the settings are in various places across the web that are not always easy to find.

Now users will be able to use My Account, which provides a privacy checkup and security checkup, or lists where people can check off which data they want to be public and private.

Google’s new website answers frequently asked questions, such as whether the company sells personal data and what information is given to advertisers.

“We knew that users find privacy and security really mysterious so we wanted to make it very approachable,” said Guemmy Kim, product manager for account controls and settings.

Data control has become increasingly important to users in recent years as more day-to-day activity has moved to the Internet.

In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked classified documents that showed the U.S. National Security Agency was engaging in mass collection of phone records, placing companies that have enormous amounts of data, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, under increasing scrutiny.

Only 9 percent of people in a recent Pew survey felt they had a “lot” of control over their data.

Google privacy updates comes on the heels of newly increased app permissions for Android, which were announced at its annual developer’s conference last week. The new system mirrors the app permissions on Apple’s iPhones, which do not allow apps to automatically access numerous types of data, such as location or phone contacts.