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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.



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.



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.’


Twitter Trying A New Approach To Spur Growth

September 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc’s plans to allow users to purchase goods and make political donations through tweets offer a path to reach new customers and build profit at a time the company has struggled to increase its audience.

Twitter announced it has partnered with mobile payment company Square Inc to accept online donations for U.S. political campaigns. Earlier, it tied up with payment processor Stripe Inc to let shoppers buy products directly with a tweet.

Both moves, aimed at increasing customer engagement, come as the social messaging service struggles to expand its audience base and as it looks for a new chief executive. Acting CEO Jack Dorsey is also the chief of Square.

“Being a conduit for a financial transaction is a very sweet position for a platform, but there are a lot of fundamental challenges that the company has to overcome,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

Despite a recent run of new products, Twitter in July said monthly user growth was the slowest since the company went public in 2013. It has just over 300 million users who sign in at least once a month.

Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said he did not expect to see sustained growth until the company reaches out to the mass market and payment industry consultants. Analysts said Twitter’s entry into e-payments is a strategy to do that, which could deliver high-margin growth. It may also help Twitter increase engagement with existing users.

Twitter does not take a cut of tweeted political donations, but candidates can pay to promote the tweet, a company spokesman said. He declined to say what Twitter gets from retailers and manufacturers for purchases made via its platform, but analysts said terms were likely to be better than for other products.

“By facilitating transactions, Twitter is opening itself up to revenue streams that are potentially more lucrative than traditional advertising models,” said Kevin Grieve, partner and head of the North American cards and payments practice at Strategy&, part of PricewaterhouseCoopers.



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.



Can Self-Driving Cars Be Hit With DoS Attacks?

September 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A security researcher was investigating the safety measures implemented by the suppliers of autonomous driving tech. What he found ain’t pretty. There is hope, however.

We’ve given this topic a bit of breathing room before we decided to weigh in with the Fudzilla two cents as well. It’s funny how the Internet jumps from topic to topic, mostly focusing on the scandalous aspects of the story, that generate the all-important flood of clicks, before moving on to the next big thing. Well, it’s not a bad idea to pause, take a deep breath and look at the issue from several angles.

The story is definitely an interesting one: The technology that’s behind the amazing development of the autonomous driving vehicles isn’t safe. It isn’t hardened to withstand attacks from malicious people. The key word in our mind, though, is “yet”.

As Mr. Jonathan Petit, the Principal Scientist at Security Innovation discovered, it’s actually incredibly easy and very cheap to confuse an autonomous vehicle to the point of it just stopping in its tracks. All you need is an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi board, a simple laser, all of it together costing barely more than $50, and you can bring a self driving car to a screeching halt.

As it turns out, the LIDAR systems (those humps you see on self driving cars’ roofs) aren’t very reliable. They will take almost any laser echo and interpret it as objects in their surroundings. So all you have to do to confuse one is to record actual echo from vehicles, pedestrians, or any other type of obstacle, and play it back at the autonomous car.

A few journalists are almost spelling doom for the entire industry based on this. But we say, hold your horses girls and boys. This is a nascent technology. It works amazingly well in a huge range of scenarios. Fortification of the technology will surely come, and sooner than most expect.

While LIDARs are a key component of the self driving equation, they are by no means the only one. First of all, the developers of the systems can and surely will introduce cross-referencing of various sensor systems into the software. If a LIDAR says there’s a car in front of you, but radar and the 3D cameras say there is none, the software can just ignore the input from the LIDAR. And LIDAR itself can be made more resilient by addition of signal encription, frequency changes and a host of other techniques.

The conclusion is underwhelming in some respects and very promising in others. One, there is no big scandal here, so move along. Two, there is no big scandal here, so we can expect to be driven in safety and comfort in only a few years. I for one can’t wait.


Uber Hires Security Experts For Vehicle Technology

September 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber Technologies Inc  has added two top vehicle security researchers, the company announced, high-profile additions that come as the ride-hailing service ramps up its work on technology for self-driving cars.

Charlie Miller, who had been working at Twitter Inc, and Chris Valasek, who worked at security firm IOActive, have resigned from their jobs and will join Uber this week.

Miller and Valasek won wide attention this month after demonstrating that they could hack into a moving Jeep.

Uber said that Miller and Valasek will join the company’s Advanced Technologies Center, a research laboratory Uber opened in Pittsburgh in February and staffed with dozens of autonomous vehicle experts hired away from Carnegie Mellon University.

An Uber spokeswoman said Miller and Valasek will work with the company’s top security officers “to continue building out a world-class safety and security program at Uber.”

Raffi Krikorian, who heads Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, tweeted a welcome to the duo last week.

Miller tweeted that he was looking forward to starting his new job on Tuesday. Valasek tweeted that his last day at IOActive will be Monday.

As Uber plunges more deeply into developing or adapting self-driving cars, Miller and Valasek could help the company make that technology more secure.

Uber envisions autonomous cars that could someday replace its hundreds of thousands of contract drivers. The San Francisco company has gone to top-tier universities and research centers to build up this capability.



Google Including Tweets In Desktop Search

August 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

An earlier agreement between Google and Twitter that has placed tweets in Google search results on mobile devices since earlier this year has now been expanded to the desktop.

Relevant tweets will appear in desktop results for queries performed in English. The search doesn’t need to include the term “twitter” or twitter hashtags — if there are tweets that Google thinks are relevant, it will surface them anyway.

Last Friday, for instance, a search for “President Obama” returned recent tweets from Obama’s Twitter account near the top of the page, below a few news articles.

The tweets that appear will include photos and links that may have been contained in the tweet.

Google has provided links to tweets in its search results for a long time, but showing the actual tweets could potentially give a boost to Twitter at a time when it’s struggling to add new users.

Google noted the expansion on Friday in an update to its earlier announcement around the mobile rollout.

The company has said it will make the feature available in other languages besides English.



Instagram, Pinterest User Growth Soars

August 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Possibly market saturation or because of waning interest, some of the world’s largest social networks are experiencing sluggish growth.

Facebook, for instance, is the largest social network in the world, with more than 1 billion active monthly users. But it didn’t garner significant growth among U.S. Internet users in the past three years, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

Some 72% of online U.S. adults use Facebook today. That is up only 5 points from 67% in 2012, Pew noted.

By comparison, Pinterest more than doubled its user base, going from 15% of online U.S. adults in 2012 to 31% today. Similarly, Instagram also showed strong momentum, growing from 13% three years ago to 28% now.

Other major players, including Twitter and LinkedIn, also saw growth but not at such a strong pace.

Pew reported that 23% of online adults use Twitter, a 7-point increase from the 16% who used it in 2012. As for LinkedIn, a quarter of online adults use the site, up from 20% in 2012, the survey noted.

“Interesting but not surprising,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “I have six kids under 23 and none of them use Facebook regularly. I think Facebook is almost considered an older person’s social tool now… Much of the growth in the younger population is on Instagram, Vine, etc.”

The Pew study also shows that while younger users are using Instagram and Pinterest, they clearly haven’t abandoned Facebook.

According to Pew, 82% of online U.S. adults between the ages of 18 to 29 use Facebook, along with 79% of those between 30 and 49, 64% of those ages 50 to 64 and 48% of those 65 and older.




Google Pushes Modular Smartphone Project To 2016

August 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google is pushing back the start of testing for its modular smartphone, known as Project Ara, to 2016.

The company plans to test the device in the U.S., according to several messages posted on Twitter by the Project Ara team. Neither the exact location nor precise timing of the tests was given.

“We are looking at a few locations in the U.S.,” one tweet said.

The Project Ara smartphone is designed to let users easily swap out its components.

The idea is that users purchase the hardware modules, like processors and sensors, themselves and snap them together to create a customized smartphone. In so doing, users could improve their device on their own terms, rather than buying a new phone outright.

Google had planned to commence initial testing in Puerto Rico this year, though those plans were scrapped as part of a ”recalculation,” announced last week.

The hastag #Yeswearelate was affixed to one of the tweets on Monday.

Google did not immediately respond to comment further.



Microsoft Tests News Reading App

August 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft is quietly working on an app thats geared toward people who want help keeping up with today’s barrage of news.

The app, called NewsCast, hasn’t been formally announced, but it was first spotted by Neowin’s Brad Sams. It takes in articles from around the Web and starts reading summaries of them to users in an ongoing playlist. Users can save articles for reading later and view the full text of any article NewsCast pulls in using a built-in browser or a distraction-free reading view.

It’s all designed to keep users up to date on the latest news while they’re commuting and don’t want to be staring at tiny text on their phone.

According to a publicly accessible webpage for the app, NewsCast is a proof-of-concept product from the Bing News and Speech teams and seems to be testing only inside Microsoft. The teams are “trying to validate several hypothesis”[sic] with the app, though it’s not clear what they’re testing. Collecting feedback from users is a major focus of NewsCast’s current build — tapping a feedback button in the app opens an email that includes a three-question survey about what users like, dislike and want from it in the future.

Microsoft isn’t the only tech company going after mobile news summaries. Facebook is reportedly testing its own Twitter-like news app, and Yahoo has received accolades for its News Digest app, which gives users bite-sized summaries about current events.



Government Requests For Twitter Data Is Surging

August 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter has experienced an increase in government demands for account information in the first half of this year, with the U.S. followed by Japan topping the list for such requests.

The increase is the largest ever seen between reporting periods by Twitter, wrote Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s senior manager for global legal policy, in a blog post Tuesday.

The Transparency Report from the company indicated that government requests for account information in the first half rose by 52% and affected 78% more account holders than in the second half of last year.

The scope of the report has been expanded to include information on notices of alleged trademark violations and a section where users can check how different email providers handle the privacy and encryption of email messages from Twitter.

The total number of government requests for account information worldwide was 4,363 in the first half and referred to 12,711 accounts across Twitter, Vine and Periscope. Twitter received 2,436 requests from the U.S. that specified 6,324 accounts, which came largely in the form of subpoenas, which are usually orders to testify or provide information. In the second half of last year, the U.S. had made 1,622 information requests affecting 3,299 accounts.

Content removal requests were also on the upswing at 26% higher in the first half of this year in comparison to the second half of last year, and came primarily from Turkey and Russia. The number of accounts impacted also went up by 11%.

The increase in content removal requests reflect growing sensitivity in some countries over the use of social media for propaganda and communications by terror groups and political extremists.




Twitter Woes Continue, User Growth Rate Slows

July 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc’s shares continued to drop after the microblogging company said its number of monthly average users grew at the slowest pace since it went public in 2013.

“This is unacceptable and we’re not happy about it,” Jack Dorsey, who stepped in as interim chief executive on July 1, said on a call with analysts.

Twitter said it had 304 million core users in the second quarter, up from 302 million in the prior quarter.

Twitter’s struggles to increase its audience worries investors, who are focused on the company’s growth potential, and the latest figures did little to reassure them.

The data on users overshadowed the company’s second-quarter earnings and revenue, which exceeded expectations, and its bullish projections for future revenue.

Executives also made clear it would be a long process, and were candid about problems with the service.

“We do not expect to see sustained meaningful growth (in monthly active users) until we start to reach the mass market,” Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said on the call.

“We have not clearly communicated Twitter’s unique value. And as a result non-users continue to ask, ‘Why should I use Twitter?’ “Simply said, the product remains too difficult to use.”

Twitter recognizes “there is an issue that needs to be worked on,” Evercore ISI analyst Ken Sena said. “They were giving investors a sense of the challenge and I think the stock sell-off that you saw just reflected that.”




Herbalife Seeks To Uncover Anonymous Tweets

July 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Herbalife Ltd has filed a petition requesting information from micro-blogging company Twitter Inc to identify an anonymous user who posted defamatory tweets against the weight-loss and nutritional products maker.

The petition for “discovery before suit” seeks to identify the person against whom a lawsuit can be filed.

Herbalife said it wants Twitter to provide information such as IP addresses and account details of the user who vilified the company and its management as “thieves, pill pushing frauds and bullies”.

“The twitter feed of @AfueraHerbaLIES contains not only defamatory, disparaging, and deceptive posts about Herbalife and its products, but also contains numerous insulting and offensive statements about Herbalife’s management team, its members, and even federal regulators,” the company said in the petition filed on Monday in Illinois.

Herbalife said the user’s tweets, accusing it of selling toxic and unregulated products, prejudice the company in its trade and are materially harmful to its reputation.

The company wants the court to order Twitter to preserve all information relating to the matter and also allow Herbalife to serve discovery upon Twitter, including document production requests.

Twitter’s privacy policy requires a court order before the company releases information about its users.

“This is pretty straightforward. We are not going to sit back and let someone make false and defamatory statements about our company,” said Alan Hoffman, a representative for Herbalife.



Will Cortana Impact Windows 10 Battery Life?

July 3, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It is just over a month until Microsoft introduces Windows 10, and as you should know by now, Cortana is one of the key elements of the new OS.

Cortana always listens in order to hear its name and be a smart digital assistant. This is Microsoft answer to Siri and Google Now that is making its way to Windows 10.

Unfortunately, this will affect your notebook battery life. We have spoken with a few industry sources and we can definitely confirm that Windows 10 with enabled Cortana will have an impact on the battery life. We are testing this as we speak to check how big the impact is.

We don’t know how significant the battery life decrease will be, but the good thing is that you will be able to switch Cortana off in case you don’t need it. We heard that many new Toshiba notebooks will come with a dedicated Cortana button, as this is the easiest way to save battery life. Cortana on Toshiba won’t listen until you press the button.

It would be smart if Microsoft would come up with Cortana enable / disable keyboard shortcut. Win + Q will enable Cortana news while Win + S will bring you directly to the Cortana search engine.

Windows 10 seems to be a logical upgrade for anyone who has Windows 8.1 on their notebooks and misses the options from Windows 7, and some familiar UI elements. We use Windows 8.1 on some devices, while most of our computers still have Windows 7 and nothing more. Microsoft DirectX 12 will force us to Windows 10 but from what awe can tell from Preview release, the upgrade to Windows 10 from with 7 seems like quite seamless and logical step.

Just make sure to be aware that your notebook battery life might suffer because of Cortana. Have in mind that this “talk to your PC and expect a smart answer” option can be disabled.