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LG’s New G5 Smartphone To Debut ‘Always On’ Display

February 12, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

LG’s next flagship Android smartphone, the G5, will come with an “always on” screen, according to a teaser posted  the LG Facebook page.

The full reveal of the G5 is expected on Feb. 21, just prior to the start of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

LG hasn’t given many other hints about the G5, although it tagged an animation on the Facebook page with the line, “Never go asleep while others do.”

The G5 is also rumored to have a removable battery that is pulled out from the bottom of the phone. LG’s invitation to its Feb. 21 event includes the words “play begins” and a picture of a jack-in-the-box toy, leading some analysts to conjecture that the G5 will focus heavily on gaming uses.

How LG markets and advertises the G5 could be a sign of growing recognition by vendors that smartphone growth is slowing. As a result, vendors will attempt to draw attention to new features that are relatively minor compared to past years. Many smartphone users need a bigger incentive to upgrade than an always-on display, one analyst said.

“Android unit shipments and revenue growth are slowing year-to-year, and with news like [an always on display], it’s clear [LG] is getting a little antsy about what 2016 has in store,” said Jack Narcotta, an analyst at TBR.

He said that an always-on display isn’t much different from LG’s previous Glance View or even the Motorola Moto X with its gesture-based features.

“From the user’s perspective, always-on is a quirky feature that will have a niche audience, at best,” he said. “Is it really that much of a distraction or effort or waste of time to press a button the side, top or bottom of your phone to see what you’ve missed?”

LG also hasn’t indicated what always-on will mean for sapping battery power, a concern that buyers will surely have, analysts said.

 

Another Security Flaw Discovered In iPhones and iPads

February 10, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Researchers have found an authentication bypass-sized hole in iPhones and iPads running iOS 8 and iOS 9.

This threat is real people, there is a video of it and documentation available online. It’s all pretty technical but the upshot is the vulnerability lets an attacker bypass the lockscreen on handsets running iOS 8 and iOS 9.

“An application update loop that results in a pass code bypass vulnerability has been discovered in the official Apple iOS (iPhone5&6 / iPad2) v8.x, v9.0, v9.1 & v9.2. The security vulnerability allows local attackers to bypass pass code lock protection of the Apple iPhone via an application update loop issue,” says the official technical description.

In rather loose language it continues: “Local attacker can trick the iOS device into a mode were a runtime issue with unlimited loop occurs. This finally results in a temporarily deactivate of the pass code lock screen. By loading the loop with remote app interaction we were able to stable bypass the auth of an iPhone after the reactivation via shutdown button. The settings of the device was permanently requesting the pass code lock on interaction.

“Normally the pass code lock is being activated during the shutdown button interaction. In case of the loop the request shuts the display down but does not activate the pass code lock.”

David Bisson, a regulator commentator on security, puts it more succinctly on the Graham Cluley blog, and throws in a couple of warnings about how and where you download your software. “This condition can be exploited by shutting down (or powering off) the device, at which point in time the passcode authentication feature is not activated as designed,” he said.

“Upon reboot (or re-activation), that protective feature remains disabled, allowing an attacker to access the device without a passcode… iOS users should therefore be careful when leaving their devices unattended around people they might not know.”

We have asked Apple to comment on the vulnerability and are awaiting a response.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Twitter Shuts Down 125,000 Terrorism-related Accounts

February 8, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has suspended more than 125,000 terrorism-related accounts since the middle of 2015, most of them linked to the Islamic State group, the company said in a blog post on Friday.

Twitter has said it only takes down accounts when they are reported by other users, but said that it has increased the size of teams monitoring and responding to reports and has decreased its response time “significantly.”

Twitter’s announcement comes as many tech companies – led by Facebook – have taken stronger steps to police controversial content online in the face of threats from legislators to force the companies to report “terrorist activity” on their sites to law enforcement.

Silicon Valley has been wary of engaging with government officials, concerned about endless demands for similar action from countries around the world as well as fears about being perceived by consumers as tools of government.

The announcement was also notable because Twitter has said little about its efforts to combat Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and similar groups even though it has been criticized for not doing enough.

Islamic State, which controls last swathes of Iraq and Syria, has heavily relied on the 300 million-person site, as well as others, to recruit fighters and propagate violent messages.

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s program on extremism, said Friday’s report showcased an “impressive number” of takedowns, but said that Twitter still appears to police extremist content in a mostly “episodic” way.

Many extremists have migrated toward smaller, less monitored platforms in recent months in response to major Silicon Valley firms stepping up their content policing, Hughes added.

In January, a delegation of top national security officials met tech industry leaders from Twitter, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, and Google parent Alphabet Inc, but most companies, including Twitter, did not send their chief executive officers.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called Twitter’s announcement a “very positive development,” but said more was needed.

“Addressing the use of social media by terrorists will require a sustained and cooperative effort between the technology sector, the Intelligence Community, and law enforcement,” he said.

Still, Twitter said in a blog post that it has cooperated with law enforcement when appropriate.

 

Microsoft Giving Yammer To All Office 365 Subscribers

February 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is ramping up its efforts to expand the reach of its Yammer work social network — and better compete with other workplace collaboration tools – announcing that any organization with an Office 365 subscription will gain access to the service and have it automatically activated.

The service will start rolling out to users in waves. The automatic activation will allow businesses to quickly spin up online communities for their workers.

Microsoft will also let users sign in to Yammer with the same username and password they use to access all of their other Office 365 apps and services. System administrators will, however, have the ability to prevent users from accessing Yammer.

The first Yammer rollout will target businesses with fewer than 150 licenses and that have an Office 365 subscription that includes Yammer.

Microsoft bought Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion. At the time, it was a high-flying technology startup in the hot enterprise social network space, althought it hasn’t been taken up widely. Microsoft said that more than 500,000 businesses are using it, up from 200,000 at the time of its acquisition.

Yammer faces increased competition in the workplace collaboration space. Rival Slack’s real-time chat capabilities have made it a popular choice, though that software doesn’t replicate the message board and information feed aspects of Yammer’s product. However, when Facebook for Work becomes publicly available — it’s in a closed beta test — that offering will more closely compete with Yammer’s core functionality.

 

Evernote Officially Exits E-commerce

February 3, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A little more than two years after Evernote announced that it would offer a suite of branded products through its own online retail store, the productivity company is walking away from the business of selling products like socks, messenger bags and wallets.

As foreshadowed by a series of sales and app changes last year, the current incarnation of the Evernote Market — a hub for people to buy branded swag and connected tools for the popular note-taking software — will no longer exist as of today.

In its place will be a page that directs people to a handful of products made by partner companies that are tightly integrated with Evernote’s service and were previously sold through the Market. Users will still be able to buy the ScanSnap Evernote Edition scanner, Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus and Evernote-branded Moleskine notebooks that are designed to work with the notetaking software.

The companies that make those items will be in charge of selling them and handling distribution, allowing Evernote to get out of the business of holding inventory and fulfilling orders. That means all of the Market’s non-integrated items, like business card holders and the company’s infamous socks, will be unavailable after after tonight.

In some ways, the Market experiment was a fairly successful one. 40% of people who purchased goods from the Market were subscribers to Evernote’s free tier, meaning that the company was able to monetize people who weren’t paying for the premium version of its service. In the first year of its existence, Market made a little more than $12 million, though it’s not clear how it continued to fare after that.

It’s a move that illustrates Evernote’s current strategy of winnowing down the products and services it’s providing to just focus on a core set of experiences that can make the startup money.

 

 

FCC Approves Use Of BYOCB

February 1, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

In a sweeping change of course directed at a tightly controlled television industry, cable and satellite operators in the United States will now be obligated to let their customers freely choose which set-top boxes they can use, according to a proposal announced by the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday.

The move is expected to have wide-ranging implications for large technology companies looking to get their brand names into every consumer’s living room. For example, under the new rules, Google, Amazon and Apple would now be allowed to create entertainment room devices that blend Internet and cable programming in a way the television industry has until now resisted. Next-generation media players, including the Chromecast, Fire TV and Apple TV, would now be granted permission to line the backs of their devices with coaxial inputs and internal “smart access card” equivalents integrated right into device firmware with a simple subscription activation process.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut investigated the cable set-top box market last summer and found that the cable industry generates roughly $19.1 billion in annual revenue from cable box rentals alone.

Meanwhile, the cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185 percent since 1995, while the cost of PCs, televisions and smartphones has dropped by 90 percent. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler admits that these economies of scale don’t need to remain so unbalanced any longer.

The FCC says its focus will be primarily on improving day-to-day television experience. In the past, the burdensome requirements of long-term contracts tethered to clunky, unsightly cable and satellite boxes has been a major source of customer complaints.

Wheeler has also said that access to specific video content shouldn’t be frustrating to the average consumer in an age where we are constantly surrounded by a breadth of information to sift through. “Improved search functions [can] lead consumers to a variety of video content that is buried behind guides or available on video services you can’t access with your set-top box today,” Wheeler says.

The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on Thursday, February 18th. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s full statement on the commission’s new proposal can be found here.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook Exploring A Dedicated Video Service

January 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is contemplating the development of a dedicated service or page where users will be able watch videos and not be bothered by other content.

The social network continues to see surging interest in video. During one day last quarter, its users watched a combined 100 million hours of video. Roughly 500 million users watch at least some video each day.

That’s a lot of video and a lot of viewers, and Facebook wants to capitalize on it.

“We are exploring a dedicated place on Facebook for when they just want to watch videos,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday during a conference call to discuss Facebook’s quarterly financial results.

But he was tight-lipped on how the video might actually be presented.

Asked if a stand-alone video app is in the cards, he mentioned the success of Messenger and a Facebook app for managing Pages. “I do think there are additional opportunities for this and we’ll continue looking at them,” he said.

Facebook wants to encourage more video viewing because it keeps users on the site longer, helping it to sell more ads.

“Marketers also really love video and it’s a compelling way to reach consumers,” COO Sheryl Sandberg said during the call.

Zuckerberg has been watching the growth of video for osme time. At a town hall meeting in November 2014, he predicted, ”In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video.”

And it’s likely that most of that video will be consumed over mobile networks.

Among Facebook’s heaviest users — the billion people who access it on a daily basis — 90 percent use a mobile device, either solely or in addition to their PC.

It’s financial results for the fourth quarter were strong. Revenue was $5.8 billion, up 52 percent from the same period in 2014, while net profit more than doubled to $1.6 billion.

 

 

 

Amazon’s E-mail ‘Share’ Runs Afoul Of German Law

January 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A German court has ruled as unlawful a feature that encourages Amazon customers to share links to products of the online shop with their contacts, confirming the ruling of a lower court.

The Amazon “share” feature invites customers to share a product via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or Pintrest.

The court said on Monday that sharing by e-mail without approval of the recipient was illegal. It is “unsolicited advertising and unreasonable harassment,” the regional court in Hamm said, confirming the ruling of a lower court in Arnsberg.

The case was brought against one of Amazon’s resellers by a competitor.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling comes after Germany’s highest court ruled earlier this month that a similar feature that encourages Facebook users to market the social media network to their contacts as unlawful.

At the time, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV), which brought the Facebook case to court, had said the ruling would have implications for other services in Germany which use similar forms of advertising.

 

News Corp Says Rumors Of Twitter Purchase Are False

January 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp said rumors about the company potentially purchasing microblogging site Twitter Inc or building a stake in it were untrue.

The stock rose from a record low after unconfirmed chatter about News Corp’s interest in Twitter circulated on Wednesday. The rumors intensified after a CNBC segment, tech website Re/code said.

The social media site was evaluated as a takeover target because of the company’s shrinking stock price, Re/code said.

In the few months since co-founder Jack Dorsey returned as the chief executive, Twitter has been trying to make the site more engaging. The company said in December it was testing a feature to show ads to people who read tweets without logging in as it tries to monetize non-active users.

“Twitter inside a larger organization definitely makes theoretical sense, whether its another internet company or a media company,” Monness, Crespi, Hardt, & Co Inc analyst James Cakmak said.

A News Corp spokesman said there was no truth to the rumors.

Twitter already has several high-profile investors. Former Microsoft Corp CEO Steve Ballmer reported a 4 percent stake in October, making him the third-biggest shareholder after Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

Twitter has been the subject of takeover rumors in the past, including a fake report attributed to Bloomberg that claimed the company had received an offer to be acquired for $31 billion.

Twitter had received bids from Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc, according to reports.

 

 

Twitter Blames Recent Outage On Software Update

January 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc stated that it had reversed a glitchy software update and resolved outages widely reported across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America that affected users of the social network on computers and phones.

In a status update message Twitter said an “intermittent issue affecting some users” was related to “an internal code change.”

“We reverted the change, which fixed the issue,” Twitter said in a statement. There was no immediate way to determine whether full service had been restored for all users.

Wall Street has long worried about Twitter’s stagnant growth in users and advertising revenue, and analysts said the outage added to the concern.

“The current market malaise and the recent site outages are compounding the negatives and having a very negative reaction on the shares,” said Victor Anthony, Axiom Capital Management analyst.

Some users who tweeted with the hashtag #twitterdown reported they had not experienced problems or that their service had been restored. Others said they were still having problems after Twitter’s announcement.

Many pointed out that Twitter could not have been down for everyone since #twitterdown was among the top trending hashtags on the site.

Both Twitter’s Internet and mobile services began experiencing outages concentrated in northern Europe around 0820 GMT.

Users from Scandinavia to Saudi Arabia to South Africa reported outages. India and Russia also suffered performance issues, according to a Twitter technical site.

Intermittent breakdowns later spread to the United States and Canada in the early part of their working day.

Sporadic disruptions continued at 1420 GMT, six hours after they first began to spread. At approximately 1745 GMT Twitter reported that some users were still having trouble accessing the service.

Fifteen minutes later the company announced the service problems had been resolved. A company spokeswoman had no further comment.

 

 

 

YouTube Returns To Pakistan After 3 Year Ban

January 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Pakistan announced that it has removed a three-year ban on YouTube after the Google-owned video-sharing website launched a local version that allows the government to demand removal of material it considers offensive.

Pakistan banned access to YouTube in September 2012 after an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims”, was uploaded to the site, sparking violent protests across major cities in the Muslim-majority country of 190 million people.

Under the new version of YouTube, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) can ask for access to offending material to be blocked, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom said in a statement.

“On the recommendation of PTA, the government of Pakistan has allowed access to the recently launched country version of YouTube for internet users in Pakistan,” the ministry said.

The government could ask Google to block access to offending material for users within Pakistan and the ministry said Google and YouTube would “accordingly restrict access” for Pakistani users.

Google, however, said that it would not automatically remove material without conducting a review, and that the vetting process was the same as in other jurisdictions with local YouTube versions. Government requests to remove content would be publicly reported, it added.

“We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them,” it said in a statement.

“Where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we may restrict access to it after a thorough review.”

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, where angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam. The crime of blasphemy can carry the death penalty, although a death sentence has never been carried out.

 

 

2015 Was A Really Bad Year For Worldwide IT Spending

January 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Worldwide IT spending shrank by nearly 6% last year — the largest one-year decrease research firm Gartner says it has ever seen. The global forecast for 2016 is for an improving, but relatively flat, $3.54 trillion. That would be a 0.6% increase.

Gartner blames a strong U.S. dollar for the global decline, because it effectively increased the price of exports by as much as 20%. Political and economic instability in countries such as Russia and Brazil also contributed to the spending problems. By comparison, the U.S. saw an increase in IT spending.

In the U.S., IT spending increased 3.1% to $1.14 trillion. The U.S. forecast this year is for a 1.2% increase.

Globally, “we’re just in this anemic growth period,” John-David Lovelock, a research vice president at Gartner. The countries who saw the most problems with IT spending include Russia, Japan and Brazil.

The economic issues also changed how firms bought IT products and services, said Lovelock.

Instead of buying a product license for $1 million, for instance, users are switching to SaaS products for $100,000 a year. Cloud services have also replaced physical servers, he said.

Globally, there were declines in every area of IT spending, including software, devices and services. The only area to post growth was data center systems spending, largely thanks to cloud.

The IT area expected to see the largest gains this year is software; it is expected to rise 5.3% to $326 billion globally. CRM is the hot area, as users seek to integrate social media with the business needs.

 

WhatsApp Dropping $1 Subscription Fee

January 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging service, is ending its token $1 a year subscription fee for consumers as it experiments with making businesses pay to send notifications to consumers, Chief Executive Jan Koum said on Monday.

The seven-year-old company, which was acquired by social media giant Facebook for $19.2 billion in 2014 and now counts nearly 1 billion users, is testing making restaurants, airlines and credit card companies pay to contact consumers, Koum said.

“Today, we are announcing that WhatsApp is going to be free to users. We aren’t going to charge a dollar a year anymore,” Youm told an audience of entrepreneurs and investors at the annual Digital Life Design conference in Munich.

Instead, WhatsApp said it will begin experimenting this year to simplify how businesses interact with consumers.

“When we think about our philosophy of building something utilitarian, we kinda want to experiment with doing the same thing with businesses,” he said but gave no further details.

 

 

Shutterfly May Have Violated Privacy By Scanning Face Photos

January 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A federal judge has has denied the request to dismiss a civil case against photo-sharing site Shutterfly that claims the company violated users’ privacy by collecting and scanning face geometries from uploaded images without consent.

The first of its kind ruling could open the door to future class-action lawsuits against Shutterfly and other social networks that use facial recognition technology without an opt-in policy.

The civil lawsuit, brought by the law firm Carey Rodriguez Milian Gonya LLP on behalf of Brian Norberg, alleges that Shutterfly violated the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA) by collecting and scanning face geometry in photos uploaded on Shutterfly’s website without the consent of those featured in the images.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Norgle rejected Shutterfly’s argument that only in-person scans of people’s faces are covered under the statute.

The lawsuit alleges that Norberg, “along with potentially millions of others,” was never informed that his facial images would be collected, nor was he informed where the images would be stored, or for how long, which is required under the BIPA, the lawsuit alleges.

In addition to the case against Shutterfly, the law firm is also leading separate claims against other companies on biometric data, including one against Facebook.

Norgle additionally ruled that the collection of face prints from photos is also covered under the statute. The statute, which also covers iris and fingerprint scans, provides for recoveries of $5,000 for each violation.

Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the ruling, while significant, meets a relatively low standard in civil litigation.

“The judge said the plaintiffs will have an opportunity to prove their claims,” Lynch said.

A spokesperson for Shutterfly said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

 

 

 

 

 

Tweets With 10,000 Character Limits Coming Soon?

January 7, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter may be gearing up to allow tweets with more than 140 characters. A lot more.

Re/Code and other sites are reporting that Twitter is working on a feature that will give users a 10,000-character limit. The social media company reportedly is looking to launch it by the end of the first quarter.

The report also stated that Twitter would look much the same as it does now, with a maximum of 140 characters showing in a tweet. However, users would be able to click on something inside the tweet to reveal more text.

The 10,000 number isn’t firm and could change once the feature is released.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.

Industry analysts are unsure how this move would go over with users, but it’s clear that Jack Dorsey, who became Twitter’s CEO again this past fall, needs to boost the company’s user growth, as well as its bottom line.

“This is the million-dollar question for Twitter,” said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst. “Should they change their brand identity in order to chase growth or stick to their guns and find other ways? And 140 characters is just an arbitrary number. However, since Twitter’s founding, 140 characters has been what it’s all about.”

Kagan added that he doesn’t think users are clamoring for more characters to use in their tweets. If users have more to say, they simply tweet several times.