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Kuddle, Microsoft To Launch Child Safe Tablet

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Kuddle, a Norwegian photo-sharing app created for children, plans to roll out a child safe tablet with Microsoft on Dec 1, and expects to sign funding deals with several venture capital firms within weeks, its chief executive said on Monday.

The Oslo-based company said it was on track to reach its goal of one million users by year-end and plans to soon raise another $5 million of fresh funds on top of the nearly $6 million it has already raised.

“We are working with Microsoft on several child safe devices which will be sold on our online store,” Chief Executive Ole Vidar Hestaas said. “The first device will be an Ipad Mini sized tablet prized under $100 that will be ready ahead of the Kuddle Store launch.”

“This is a child friendly device and it is not possible to download games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) or apps like Snapchat,” Hestaas said.

Kuddle, which bills itself as a rival to Instagram, lets parents monitor what their children publish and keeps access to content restricted, preventing strangers from seeing and sharing pictures. There are no hashtags or comments to prevent online bullying and “likes” are anonymous.

Hestaas said the company also is in talks with Samsung and Microsoft’s Nokia phones unit on similar cooperation, and that it was also working on deals with European telecoms operators Telenor and Vodafone for child safe Kuddle SIM cards to be sold separately or linked up to one of its devices.

The app, which has a target of 1 million users by the end of 2014, is now available in 7 languages. The most significant growth has recently come from Brazil and the US.

Hestaas said he expects to conclude funding deals with several major international venture capital funds within weeks.

The firm’s present investors include Norwegian golf ace Suzann Pettersen.

 

 

Lyft Car-Sharing Service Acquires Rival Hitch

September 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Car-sharing service Lyft has purchased Hitch, a startup in the mobile app-enabled car-pooling business, to integrate the service with its own shared rides business that it set up last month.

“Similar to Lyft, Hitch has always believed the shared rides experience is inherently social, and we’re excited that they’re joining the team to accelerate this movement together,” Lyft wrote in a blog post Monday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hitch co-founders Snir Kodesh and Noam Szpiro will join the Lyft team as the company expands personal transit to more cities across the U.S. Hitch offers its service in San Francisco.

“We observed too many empty cab seats and noticed that public transit could be improved with the addition of dynamic routing,” the Hitch co-founders wrote in a blog post. “We built an app, a sophisticated engine optimized for pairings, and started to grow our platform–with new users and drivers alike.”

The Hitch platform will close for drivers and passengers starting Tuesday. Current Hitch drivers will move to the Lyft community, to which many are already signed on as ride-sharing drivers, Lyft said.

The company said it had seen “incredible” growth and demand for its shared rides business Lyft Line in San Francisco, which launched in August. Lyft Line held out the promise that it would connect people with a ride already going the same way for up to 60 percent less than an original Lyft ride. Lyft Line would roll out first in San Francisco on iOS, with support on Android and services in other cities to follow, the company said at launch.

Rivals Uber and Sidecar have also begun similar car-pooling services.

 

 

 

Facebook Set To Unveil New Advertising Platform

September 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is gearing up to introduce a new advertising platform to improve effectiveness of online ads, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The product is a redesigned version of Atlas Advertiser Suite, an ad management and measurement platform that Facebook bought from Microsoft Corp last year.

It is expected to help marketers target Facebook users more effectively by measuring which users have seen, interacted or acted upon ads that appear on Facebook’s services and on third-party websites and apps.

The product will also provide a tool for marketers to buy ads to target Facebook users across the Web.

Microsoft took on Atlas with its $6.3 billion acquisition of digital ad agency aQuantive in 2007. Unable to make it work for its own purposes, Microsoft wrote off $6.2 billion of the aQuantive deal’s value in 2012.

The world’s No.1 Internet social network, which lags behind market leader Google Inc in U.S. market for online display ads, did not reveal how much it paid for the technology.

Facebook counts 1.5 million advertising customers and the company’s ad business saw strong growth across all of its geographic regions, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told Reuters in July.

Mobile advertising revenue grew 151 percent year-over-year, accounting for roughly 62 percent of Facebook’s overall ad revenue in the second quarter.

 

 

Facebook To Promote Posts Tied To Trendy Or Popular Topics

September 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook users begin to see more posts higher in their feeds tied to popular events or topics of conversation, with less popular posts getting pushed further down.

The change comes courtesy of an update to Facebook’s news feed algorithm announced Thursday, focused on giving users “more timely stories.” It affects posts both from users’ friends and from pages to which they’re connected.

Facebook wants more of its users to engage on the site when they might be watching the same sports game or TV show — something that already happens on Twitter — and then brush their posts under the carpet when the event is over or the topic fizzles out.

Facebook routinely tweaks its news feed algorithm, but this update has the potential to advance the company’s efforts in the area of news delivery. It’s a departure from the site’s roots as a means for solely keeping in touch with family and friends.

The update is built around two changes. First, posts that are related to trending topics will appear higher and faster in the feed, Facebook said. When a friend or a Page to which you’re connected posts about something that’s currently a hot topic of conversation on the site, the post is more likely to appear higher in the feed.

Facebook users can already get a sense of what’s popular on the site by looking at the “trending” topics section in the right-hand column, which Facebook rolled out earlier this year. On Thursday, some of the topics listed included Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, pop singer Gwen Stefani and the video game Final Fantasy XV.

Posts that aren’t as relevant to what’s hot, in other words, will get less priority.

Secondly, Facebook said it would be considering not just the number of likes that posts receive in determining their placement, but when people choose to like, comment and share. If a lot of people are interacting with a post right after it was posted, but the activity drops off a few hours later, “this suggests the post was most interesting at the time it was posted,” Facebook said. As a result, that post would get promoted higher early on and less later.

 

 

Sony Launches SDK For SmartEyeglass

September 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony has rolled out an SDK (software development kit) for its SmartEyeglass head-mounted display, another step toward challenging Google Glass.

The glasses can connect to Android smartphones via Bluetooth and project green monochrome text or basic graphics across a field within the lenses.

Sony said it will begin sales of the eyewear to developers by March 31, the end of its fiscal year. They will be sold in Japan, the U.S. and some European countries.

The Developer Preview SDK includes an emulator, tutorials, sample code and design guidelines to make the most of the device’s hardware and sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope and brightness sensor.

The glasses, which weigh 77 grams, are more than 85 percent transparent and include a camera that can shoot 3-megapixel images and VGA video.

Sony has emphasized that the glasses project images to a user’s natural line of sight, which differs from the Google Glass display set in a corner.

“Sony’s competitive edge lies in our achievement of a thin lens with high transparency thanks to our unique holographic light guide plate technology, which enables us to provide a bright field of vision,” a Sony spokeswoman wrote in an email.

“Furthermore, the screen size is large, and images and text are displayed from the front for both eyes (not only one eye) to facilitate easier viewing and prevent eye fatigue.”

The price for the glasses as well as availability of a consumer version are still to be decided, she added.

Bulky prototype versions of the glasses were shown at the IFA and CES electronics shows earlier this year.

Potential applications include displaying cooking instructions for chefs, running time for joggers and messages from friends.

Augmented reality-style functions are also possible, such as displaying information when a user looks at a certain bottle of wine, facial recognition or navigation information in an unfamiliar city.

 

 

Yelp Settles FTC With FTC Over Child Privacy Violation Charges

September 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yelp has agreed to pay $450,000 to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle charges that the firm accepted registrations to its services from children under 13 through its apps.

The FTC had earlier on Tuesday lodged a complaint against the service that connects people with local businesses, stating that it had violated a number of rules, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Before 2009, users could only register through the website, where Yelp had a screening mechanism to prohibit users under the age of 13 from registering. However, in 2009, Yelp introduced a registration feature in its app, allowing users to register for new accounts through the application but failed to implement a working age-screen mechanism in the feature, according to the FTC complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

As a result, both the iOS and Android versions of the app accepted registrations and collected information from users who entered dates of birth indicating that they were underaged, the complaint added. This went on until April 2013.

Yelp said in a blog post earlier this week that it had reached a settlement with the FTC regarding the bug in the mobile registration process that failed to disallow registrations from individuals under 13. Birth dates on Yelp are optional in the first place, so users are always free to register without one, it noted.

The FTC charged Yelp with violating the COPPA Rule by failing to provide notice to parents of its information practices, and to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children.

Under the proposed settlement, Yelp has to destroy the personal information of children under 13 who registered with the service within 30 days of the entry of the order, in most cases.

Yelp said that only about 0.02% of users who actually completed the registration process during the time period provided an underage birth date, “and we have good reason to believe that many of them were actually adults.”

The company had an average of about 138 million monthly unique visitors in the second quarter of this year.

 

 

HP May Be Looking To Unload Snapfish

September 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hewlett-Packard Co is taking a look at putting its web-based photo sharing service Snapfish on the block, and has held discussions with multiple private equity and industry buyers, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Snapfish, which HP bought for more than $300 million in 2005 and currently sits within its printing and personal systems group, is considered non-core for the company, the person said, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

A spokesman for HP declined to comment.

Last year, HP replaced the printing and personal business’ long-time head Todd Bradley with former Lenovo executive Dion Weisler. Bradley has since left the technology company, to join Tibco Software Inc as its president.

Some of the parties that have been eyeing Snapfish have also expressed interest in buying another online photo-sharing services provider, Shutterfly Inc, the person said.

Shutterfly hired Frank Quattrone’s Qatalyst Partners over the summer to find a buyer, and is expected wrap up its process in the next several weeks, people familiar with the matter have said previously.

 

 

Twitter Wading Into Online Shopping Market With ‘Buy’ Button

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter is trying out a new way for its users to purchase digital music and other products through the social networking application, with the goal of making mobile shopping easier, the company said in a blog post.

A “small percentage” of U.S. Twitter users will soon begin to see tweets that will include a “buy” button from some of the company’s partners, group product manager Tarun Jain wrote in the blog post published Monday. The percentage of Twitter users seeing the marketing tweets will grow over time, Jain wrote.

“This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile phones convenient and easy, hopefully even fun,” Jain wrote.

Twitter’s partners in the e-commerce effort include digital marketing companies Musictoday, Gumroad, Fancy and Stripe, Jain said.

The e-commerce test will include products from several musicians, including Brad Paisley, Eminem, Keith Urban, Megadeth, Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden. Other organizations featured will including Burberry, the Home Depot, the Nature Conservancy and DonorsChoose.

 

 

Amazon Slashes Fire Phone Price To Less Than $1

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon drastically reduced the price of its three-month-old Fire Phone to 99 cents, an obvious attempt to boost slow sales.

The Fire Phone, which originally sold for $649 minus a contract commitment and for $199 with a two-year deal with AT&T, was marked down to $449 without a contract and 99 cents with one.

Amazon spun the dramatic price cut in the best possible light. “Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Devices, in a statement Monday.

In fact, by all accounts, the Fire has done poorly. According to data mining done a month ago by ad network Chitika, Fire Phone usage grew only “incrementally” in the device’s first two months. By Aug. 14, Amazon’s phone accounted for just 0.02% of all smartphone-based ad impressions.

Chitika’s number was not a measurement of the number of devices in use, but of the online activity of Fire Phone users: The calculation was best described as “usage share.”

StatCounter, another metrics vendor that also tracks usage share, did not even list Fire Phone in its operating system data for the month of August.

In June, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire Phone, most analysts slammed the pricing, saying that the online retailer needed to do more than simply mimic the competition.

“If the $199 on 2yr contract is all there is to Fire Phone pricing it will be a tough sell,” Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, said on Twitter that day.

“Does the 99-cent price matter? Sure it does. But in the scheme of things, does it help? No, because you still have to have a contract,” Milanesi said in an interview today.

She pointed out that Apple, for example, gives away the iPhone 4S to customers who sign up for a two-year contract with a mobile carrier. The Fire Phone’s “unlocked” price of $449 is also identical to that of an off-contract iPhone 4S.

Amazon missed its chance to make a splash months ago, Milanesi argued. “This price then would have sent a different message,” she said. “It would have made a difference because at the time [mid-June] there was not a lot going on. But to do this the day before Apple announces its new iPhones, and right after Samsung showed off its Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge?”

 

 

Facebook Wants The Whole World On The Internet

September 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is prepared to invest billions of dollars to reach its goal of bringing the Internet to everyone on the planet, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview on Friday.

“What we really care about is connecting everyone in the world,” Zuckerberg said at an event in Mexico City hosted by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

“Even if it means that Facebook has to spend billions of dollars over the next decade making this happen, I believe that over the long term its gonna be a good thing for us and for the world.”

Around 3 billion people will have access to the Internet by the end of 2014, according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics. Almost half that, 1.3 billion people, use Facebook.

Facebook, the world’s largest social networking company, launched its Internet.org project last year to connect billions of people without Internet access in places such as Africa and Asia by working with phone operators.

“I believe that … when everyone is on the Internet all of our businesses and economies will be better,” Zuckerberg said.

 

 

Facebook Trying To Do Damage Control Over Messenger App

September 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is trying to do damage control for its Messenger app,due to recent negative publicity.

The social network is responding to a firestorm of user anger that erupted when it appeared that Facebook was forcing people to load its Messenger app in a veiled attempt to usurp their privacy.

Now Facebook is trying to set the record straight.

“You might have heard the rumors going around about the Messenger app,” Facebook said in a message to users that popped up on the network’s mobile app. “Some have claimed that the app is always using your phone’s camera and microphone to see and hear what you’re doing. These reports aren’t true, and many have been corrected. Still, we want to address some concerns you might have.”

The message is one way Facebook is trying to spread the word about Messenger.

“We’re testing ways of explaining Messenger to people, and as part of that, a percentage of people will receive this notice,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to Computerworld. “We felt it was important to offer more information, particularly in light of false reports that have spread over the last couple of weeks.”

The trouble started earlier this month when users first complained that Facebook was making them use a separate app to send messages, photos and videos to their friends via their mobile devices.

Matters heated up when reports surfaced alleging that Facebook could use the app to surreptitiously take over users’ smartphones to take photos or even make phone calls.

Much of the confusion stemmed from reviews of the app in the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store.

On Google Play, a user identified as Ty Owen wrote, “Look very closely at the permissions before downloading. The permissions state they can make calls and send texts without you even knowing. By doing this it will cost you money and god noes [sic] what other info they are getting.”

The problem snowballed and the rumors spread, leading some users to either not download Messenger or to uninstall it.

According to Facebook, those comments do not reflect reality.

“If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone’s camera and capture that photo,” the company said in its message to users. “We don’t turn on your camera or microphone when you aren’t using the app.”

 

 

 

 

YouTube Music Might Prove Lucrative For Google

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A beefed up version of YouTube offering exclusive content might turn out to be lucrative bait for Google to lure some of its users deeper into its digital video and music services.

YouTube appears to be readying a paid premium music service that would cost US$9.99 a month, called YouTube Music Key. Roughly a dozen purported screenshots of the service were recently published online on the blog Android Police, possibly showing how it would work. The images showed exclusive content such as remixes or cover songs, offline access to entire albums or concerts, and personalized playlists.

A YouTube spokesman declined to comment, but rumors of a paid music service from the Google-owned video site have been circulating for some time now. An earlier report in the Financial Times claimed YouTube was blocking or penalizing independent labels that were not signing up for the yet-to-launch paid service. Earlier this month, YouTube head Susan Wojcicki confirmed the company was working on some kind of subscription music service, in aRe/code interview.

So it looks likely that a premium version of YouTube just for music is on the way. The free version of YouTube works well for many right now, but a premium version might let Google monetize some new content and lead users to the company’s other digital media services.

The amount and diversity of content already available free on YouTube is massive, and the advertisements don’t interrupt the listening experience like those on Spotify or Pandora do. Plus, Google already offers Google Play All Access, a paid music service that syncs across devices and lets people listen offline, for $9.99 a month.

“Premium” might be the draw for a paid music service. The special content might include exclusive recordings of professional artists’ cover songs, or unreleased tracks similar to iTunes exclusives.

To do that, Google would probably have to strike new licensing deals with music labels. But if YouTube could convert just a tiny fraction of its billion-plus monthly users into paying customers, that might be a win for Google, argues Mark Mulligan, co-founder of the music and technology research firm Midia Consulting.

YouTube claims viewers watch more than 6 billion hours of video each month on its site — almost an hour for every person on Earth — and that 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That catalogue is peerless, Mulligan said, but Google probably wants to do more with it in order to take on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Beats Music.

“YouTube has the ability to offer so much more than anyone else, with video the killer component,” he said.

 

Snapchat Looking For Expansion Opportunities

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat Inc, creator of a mobile app that allows users to send messages that disappear within seconds, may be looking to expand its service to videos, news articles and advertisements, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The California-based company is currently in talks with advertisers and media companies about a service called Snapchat Discovery, the Journal reported, citing sources.

Snapchat Discovery, rumored to debut in November, will show content and ads to Snapchat users, the Journal quoted the sources as saying.

At least a dozen media companies have shown interest in providing content for Snapchat Discovery, the Journal said.

Snapchat Discovery will allow users to read publications and watch video clips by holding down a finger on the screen, as they do with photos and other messages on the app, the report said.

Snapchat, popular among teenage users, was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.

 

 

 

 

Are Evernote Extensions Spamming Chrome?

August 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Malwarebytes has warned of a fake Evernote extension for Chrome that spams users with unwanted advertisements by injecting Javascript into every webpage they visit.

The vulnerability means that on the surface, it looks like the popups and advertisements are coming from the websites users are visiting, when they are actually coming from the fake Evernote web extension.

Researchers at the company discovered the vulnerability in a “multi-plug .PUP” file, which installs the fake Evernote browser extension.

A PUP file is one that has the .pup file extension and is most commonly associated with the Puppy Linux operating system. PUP files run when an installer program is opened on the user’s computer and they are similar to the installer.exe files that are used with Windows applications.

“A quick look shows the PUP is digitally signed by ‘Open Source Developer, Sergei Ivanovich Drozdov’, although the certificate has since been revoked by the Issuer. This serves as another reminder that you can’t always trust a program just because it’s digitally signed,” said Malwarebytes malware intelligence analyst Joshua Cannell.

“When you execute the PUP, it silently installs a web extension for the Google Chrome, Torch, and Comodo Dragon browsers. The extension takes the form of three obfuscated JavaScript files and one HTML file. These files [are] installed in Chrome’s extension directory on a Windows 7 PC.”

For Google Chrome, the installation of the web extension is achieved by updating the “Preferences” file, which is a Javascript Object Notation (JSON) formatted file used to configure Chrome user preferences. The extension that’s installed is called “Evernote Web”, just like the real extension from evernote.com, but when taking a look at the Chrome extensions page, Malwarebytes found the extension installed there with the ID “lbfehkoinhhcknnbdgnnmjhiladcgbol”, just like the real Evernote Web extension.

“Clicking ‘Visit website’ directs the user to the Chrome webstore page for the actual Evernote Web extension,” Cannell added. “Chrome believes the real extension is installed, as verified by the Launch App button. When clicking this button with the fake extension installed, nothing happens, whereas normally the user is met with an Evernote login screen.”

Cannell explained that this is because the extension uses a content script to run in the context of the webpages a user browses.

“The content script is guaranteed to be loaded into every web page using the extension manifest (manifest.json). When visiting webpages, you’ll get a series of annoying advertisements, all leading to potentially more unwanted programs and offers,” he added.

To remove the extension, Chrome users need to visit the extensions tab in the browser and click the picture of a garbage can.

Evernote hit the headlines for its security concerns last year when it emerged that its network had been compromised by hackers.

The online note-taking service issued a password reset for all users after the discovery. It said that it “discovered and blocked” suspicious activity on its network, but claimed that no user data was compromised during the intrusion.

“In our security investigation, we have found no evidence that any of the content you store in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost,” Evernote said.

 

Courtesy-TheInq

Is McAfee Right About Google?

August 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Security software expert and on-the-run murder suspect, John McAfee has taken time from his busy schedule to warn the world about the perils of Googling.

McAfee has called upon people to resist Google to protect their privacy saying that the search engine appears to believe that if people have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear.

“If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behaviour become? You need to think this through,” he said.

He said that people could not have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom. McAfee added that Freedom was all he had.

“And it’s all you have, if you think about it.”

We thought about it and came to the conclusion that we have a lot of things which are not defined by the fact that Google can see us. But hey, we don’t have Belize wanting us to help them with their inquiries.

Courtesy-Fud