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Google Ends Real-name Requirement For Google+

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google+ may attract some new — and certainly anonymous — users after Google announced it was abolishing its real-names policy for the profiles in the service.

Since its introduction, Google’s social network has required that people use their real names in Google+ profiles, as part of an effort to help other people find them through the service.

“You need to provide both your first and last name for your Google+ profile,” the guidelines said. One could be an initial, but not both.

While that may have been a good idea for some, Google conceded Tuesday that it has also excluded people who don’t want to use their real name.

Google’s policy of trying to tie YouTube users’ accounts to their Google+ accounts has also sparked criticism among people who want to leave YouTube comments, or otherwise use the service, more anonymously.

For those reasons and others, Google said Tuesday that on Google+ there were no longer restrictions on the names people could use.

“We know you’ve been calling for this change for a while,” the company said in a blog post. The names policy has led to “unnecessarily difficult experiences” for some users, Google said, adding, “for this we apologize.”

In online comments on the Google+ page, people applauded the change. Others said it was too little, too late, or questioned whether it would lead to more spamming or cyberbullying behind the cloak of a fake name.

“Translation: It’s safe to come out and play again comment trolls,” one person wrote.

To clean up YouTube comments, Google overhauled the commenting system last year, to push “better quality” comments higher up. But shortly after making the changes, Google reported an increase in spam.

 

Apple Touch ID Patent Falters

July 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s application to trademark the name ‘Touch ID’ for its fingerprint scanning technology has been rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Apparently the name already belongs to an outfit called Kronos, a US-based company that makes workforce management software.

The USPTO pointed out that granting Apple the patent for Touch ID may create confusion among potential users. Kronos’s Touch ID technology is also related to fingerprint recognition and has been doing rather well. It has had the trademark since 2001, while Apple’s application was submitted in January this year only.

The iPhone maker has six months to respond to the letter and provide an alternative. If Apple fails to do so, its application will be considered abandoned by the US patent office and the company will have to rename the feature. The Tame Apple Press gets all moist about the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which was billed as the “killer ap” on the iPhone 5S.  It is going on the iPad range in October.

The fact Apple could not be bothered to check the name was trademarked before it stuck it in the iPhone5S is probably going to cause it some problems. After all it had a few difficulties with the iPad name.

Courtesy-Fud

Lionsgate Joins Alibaba In TV Streaming Joint Venture

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, the studio behind the ‘Hunger Games’ films, plans on offering a subscription streaming service in China, the firms said in a statement on Tuesday.

The service, to be known as Lionsgate Entertainment World, will be exclusive to Alibaba’s Internet television set-top boxes and is expected to launch in August.

It will give users access to Lions Gate content, including several titles from the ‘Twilight Saga’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ series, as well as television series ‘Mad Men’.

Alibaba and its affiliates have aggressively pushed into the entertainment industry since the beginning of the year, with more than $3 billion invested since March. The Hangzhou-based firm is looking to move beyond traditional e-commerce, offering more digital products like films, games and television.

“This cooperation signals our ongoing commitment to advance our vision of making digital media entertainment available to our customers anywhere, anytime,” Patrick Liu, Alibaba’s president of digital entertainment, said in Tuesday’s statement.

Alibaba is preparing for its U.S. listing later this year, potentially the biggest ever tech offering, even as it maintains a steady stream of investments that has seen the firm and its affiliates invest more than $7.5 billion since the beginning of the year.

In March, Alibaba bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group, a film and television content producer, for $804 million.

It followed this up in April by buying an 18.5 percent stake in Chinese online video streaming site Youku Tudou Inc in partnership with affiliated private equity company Yunfeng Capital. Among Yunfeng Capital’s founders is Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba.

Also in April, Ma and other partners paid $1.05 billion for a 20 percent stake in Wasu Media Holding Co, mostly funded with a loan from Alibaba. At the same time, Alibaba and Wasu Digital TV Media Group signed a cooperation agreement for online content and Internet TV.

Lionsgate Entertainment World will also offer premium content and subscriber benefits such as invitations to screenings, Tuesday’s statement said.

 

Video Streaming Company RayV Acquired By Yahoo

July 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has purchased online video streaming company RayV with the aim of distributing content to more consumers, mostly through mobile devices.

RayV, founded in 2005, is focused on efficiently distributing HD-quality video to a global audience, with a focus on mobile.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Yahoo is focused on growing video users and monthly streams, and while we’re only getting started, we’re very focused on this in 2014,” Yahoo said in its announcement of the deal.

RayV’s service will improve Yahoo’s underlying technology infrastructure, and most of RayV’s employees will join Yahoo’s R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel.

A deal between Yahoo and RayV was in the works for at least a couple months, according to The Wall Street Journal. The acquisition comes as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is focused on giving people more of a reason to visit Yahoo’s site, partly through original online shows.

Yahoo’s Screen portal includes a range of videos including original news, as well as content from partners like Comedy Central, BuzzFeed and Saturday Night Live.

Yahoo recently announced that it would be airing the television show “Community” on Screen, after it was canceled by NBC earlier this year.

 

Lenovo Ships First 4K Laptop

July 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Toshiba is not the only company offering a 4K laptop anymore; Lenovo has finally shipped its first 4K laptop, sporting a 5.6-inch screen, after months of delays.

The IdeaPad Y50 UHD laptop starts at $1,299.99 and is targeted at gamers. The 4K screen can display images at 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is the highest resolution available in laptops today.

The Y50 is cheaper than Toshiba’s Satellite P50T, which starts at $1,499.99. The P50T started shipping in April, but was temporarily pulled from Toshiba’s website, and is now available again.

Laptop screens have so far topped out at 3200 x 1800 pixels in Samsung’s Ativ Book 9 Plus, Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro and Razer’s Blade gaming laptop. TVs, monitors and cameras with support for 4K are already available.

Lenovo in January announced two 4K laptops — the Y50 and the 14-inch Y40 — but the initial units that shipped in May were missing 4K screens and instead came with HD screens. The Y40 model is not yet available with a 4K screen. Lenovo was having issues acquiring 4K displays, which delayed some laptops and monitors.

The Y50 has some of the latest PC technologies, pushing it into the class of a true gaming laptop. The $1,299.99 model has a Core i7 i7-4710HQ processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics chip with 2GB of video memory, 8GB of DRAM and 1TB of hard-drive storage. The $1,599.99 model has the same Core i7 CPU, the GeForce GTX 860M with 4GB of video memory, 16GB of DRAM and 512GB solid-state drive storage.

The laptops have Windows 8, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an HDMI connector and two USB 3.0 ports.

 

Can Mobile Devices Push Gaming To New Heights

July 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

By 2017, mobile and online games could push worldwide gaming software revenues to $100 billion. That’s according to Digi-Capital’s latest Global Games Investment Review report, which said the mobile/online game market could make up a whopping 60 percent ($60 billion) of that total thanks to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 24 percent since 2011.

The firm found mobile was the main driver of record mergers and acquisitions activity in the last year, accounting for $4.6 billion of a record $12.5 billion in games M&A. The free-to-play MMO market was the next biggest driver with $4 billion in M&A business, followed by tech interests with $2.8 billion.

That total covers the last year, but most of it has come in 2014, with gaming M&A accounting for a record $6.6 billion in the first six months of the year alone. Even if 2014 didn’t see another penny added to that total, it would be a new full-year record as well, having already eclipsed the $5.6 billion in mergers and acquisitions recorded for the entirety of 2013.

Digi-Capital offered a number of reasons for the increase of M&A activity beyond the simple attraction of massive growth in the field. The firm also said some acquirers were interested in “stopping mobile insurgents from eating their lunch,” indicating the Zynga pick-up of Natural Motion would fall under that category. It also said companies established in one region are looking to buy strength in a different part of the world (as with Softbank’s majority stake acquisition of Supercell), and lukewarm or delayed IPOs for a handful of companies in the market have made recent valuations seem like good bargains.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Are Semiconductor Sales Making A Comback?

July 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Semiconductor revenue has grown by almost seven percent worldwide, analyst firm Gartner has said.

In its forecast for the second quarter, Gartner said that revenue is expected to reach $336bn this year, up 6.7 percent from the same quarter last year. The growth has surpassed analysts’ earlier expectations, up from the previous quarter’s forecast of 5.4 percent growth.

The growing trend is particularly evident in companies such as foundry leader TSMC, Gartner explained, which is expecting a sequential growth in the second quarter of this year by over 20 percent.

But, according to Gartner, DRAM is responsible for the growth and in the chip market this year is expected to lead with a 18.8 percent annual growth. This is because DRAM pricing remains firm, and coupled with growth in key system markets, this is helping propel the DRAM market to an estimated $41bn in 2014.

“Other areas are also doing well, including analog, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), application-specific integrated circuit (ASICs), and non optical sensors,” said Gartner VP of research Bryan Lewis. “ASICs are driven by Apple, with strong sales of its iPhone expected in the second half of 2014. ASICs will also benefit from the strong ramp of the latest video game console generation, particularly the Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One.”

However, the analyst outfit said memory is a “feast-and-famine” market due to big supply and demand cycles, and it predicted that the next big memory oversupply downturn to hit in 2016, weakening overall semiconductor growth.

However, Lewis claimed that overall semiconductor growth is widespread, with the non-memory segment growing 5.2 percent in 2014, compared with only 0.8 percent the year before. Smartphones and “ultramobile” devices, including tablets, are the growth areas from a system point of view, Gartner added.

On Monday, Gartner reported that the PC market – which it counts as desktops, notebooks and “premium ultramobile devices” – will surge by over five percent this year. However, it will still be in negative figures, increasing from minus 9.5 percent in 2013 to minus 2.9 percent in 2014.

However, Gartner said that the traditional PC market, which consists of desktop and notebooks only, will still be in decline and follow the same downward trend, on pace to contract 6.7 percent in 2014 and 5.3 percent in 2015.

 

Another Security Flaw Found In Adobe Flash

July 10, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Another critical security flaw has been found for Adobe’s Flash plug-in. Google Engineer Michele Spagnuolo has written an exploit tool, called “Rosetta Flash” which allows hackers to steal your cookies and other data using malicious Flash .SWF files.

The flaw has been known about since Adam was a boy, had been left unfixed until now as nobody had found a way to harness it for evil. Twitter, Microsoft, Google and Instagram have already patched their sites, but beware of others that may still be vulnerable.

Adobe now has a fix, and if you use Chrome or Internet Explorer 10 or 11, your browser should automatically update soon with the latest versions of Flash, 14.0.0.145. However, if you have a browser like Firefox, you may want to grab the latest Flash version from Adobe directly. Just be careful, that Adobe does not stuff up your computer with its god awful McAfee plug-in.

Apps like Tweetdeck or Pandora will need to update Adobe AIR — that should happen automatically.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Get Ready For More Ads On Twitter

July 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Get ready to see  see more ads on your Twitter feed that link to mobile apps in the Apple and Google stores.

After a test period, Twitter said that it was globally deploying its “mobile app installs” program, which allows companies to promote their mobile apps in users’ feeds.

Twitter began testing the program with a limited number of advertisers in the U.S. in April — tests that the company says went well. Participants in that program included mobile ride-hailing service Lyft and games publisher Electronic Arts.

The program lets companies publish links to download mobile apps. These ads are meant to appear like regular posts in users’ feeds.

Mobile app ads have become very successful for Facebook, helping to drive the download of roughly 60 percent of the top-grossing apps in Apple’s App Store, according to Facebook.

Twitter, for its part, is looking to better monetize its service amid sagging user growth. The company has yet to turn a profit.

Twitter already lets advertisers target their ads by users’ interests, keywords, favorite TV programs, language and other criteria.

Advertisers promoting their mobile apps will be able to leverage those capabilities too, Twitter said.

 

 

Sony Believes TV Business Will Swing To Profitability This year

July 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp believes its TV division will swing into the black this financial year after a decade in the red, even if it falls short of its volume sales target, the head of the newly independent division said on Monday.

Masashi Imamura told a media round table that the TV business, which will become a separate subsidiary of Sony Corp on July 1, had reduced fixed costs during the last financial year, and profitability was now in sight.

He said Sony this year would be able to absorb the impact of any fluctuations in emerging market currencies, a factor he blamed for the unit’s failure to make a profit last year.

Sony has forecast an 18.5 percent rise in TV sales to 16 million units this year from 13.5 million units a year ago, an increase that analysts said was well above the industry’s average growth forecasts.

Imamura said the sales target was achievable, but added that the TV business would still turn a profit even if sales fell short of this goal.

Sony’s TV division will be split off from the parent company on Tuesday, a move aimed at boosting transparency and accountability in a bid to achieve and maintain profitability.

Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said at a corporate strategy meeting last month that the company had not ruled out an equity tie-up for the TV business, which is to be known as Sony Visual Products Inc, although nothing had been decided on the matter.

Sony’s TV business has seen relatively rapid turnover at the top over the past decade with six different chiefs, although Imamura has had the longest tenure, serving since August 2011.

Sony’s shares are down 8 percent so far this year, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average’s 7 percent drop.

 

YouTube To Debut Weekly Radio Show On Sirius

June 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is making a foray into radio with a weekly show on satellite radio service Sirius XM that will feature the online video website’s most popular and emerging artists, the companies said on Thursday.

The show called The YouTube 15 will be hosted by Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s most popular stars whose videos on how to talk to your dog and other snippets from her life drew more than 13 million subscribers to her channel.

YouTube’s radio show will debut July 11 on the SiriusXM Hits 1 channel, which plays pop, R&B, rock and hip-hop.

It is the first time YouTube, owned by Google Inc, has partnered with another platform on a show about music.

The show is aimed at exposing listeners to a curated selection from the vast library of YouTube music videos, said Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer for SiriusXM.

The selection of songs will reflect “what’s trending and very popular” to familiarize listeners with top hits on YouTube, he said. “Equally importantly, you are going to hear new and emerging music that many people for sure will not have heard.”

 

 

2GB RAM Upgrade Coming For New Google Glass Explorers

June 26, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google will soon roll out an upgraded version of Google Glass with 2GB of RAM, angering early participants of its Glass Explorer Program stuck with the older model.

Google Glass currently comes with 1GB of RAM, but to improve performance Google will begin shipping a new version with 2GB of RAM, it said in a post to Google Plus.

The announcement angered some existing Glass owners. Some demanded a free upgrade to the 2GB version in comments on the posting. Others said they would be willing to pay a small fee for an upgrade, while one acknowledged that if further hardware updates were planned, it wouldn’t make sense for Google to upgrade all users each time. “Getting a final consumer version would be swell though,” he added.

Google does not plan to upgrade existing users’ devices, it said.

“Throughout our open beta program, you can expect to see us make changes here and there. We won’t be swapping devices, but you’ll continue to see improvements with our software updates,” a Google representative said in a comment on the posting.

The company does replace broken or defective Google Glass devices, however, prompting Google Plus user Jake Weisz to identify a loophole in the no-upgrades policy. “If defective Glass units get free upgrades to 2GB, you will see a lot of ‘defective’ models this month,” he wrote.

In May, Google broadened its Explorer Program, making Glass available in the U.S. to anyone over 18 years old for $1,500. Before that, users who wanted to buy Glass required an invitation from Google. On Monday it extended the offer to U.K. residents over 18, who can purchase Glass for $1,700.

Google is upgrading the Glass software as well as the hardware. It is adding an easier way to frame shots for photos, with the addition of L-shaped corners bracketing the image in the viewfinder screen, and adding two new Google Now cards, one to remind users where they parked their car and another to let them know when packages are arriving.

The company also announced 12 new Glassware apps from partners, including Shazam, a music recognition app that can be triggered with the words “OK Glass, recognize this song,” and 94Fifty Basketball, a training aid that works with a sensor-equipped basketball to offer feedback after each shot.

 

Yahoo Releases Personalization App For Android Phones

June 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Yahoo has launched an Android personalization app that could give the company a bigger presence in mobile contextual search.

Yahoo Aviate is the product of the company’s acquisition of Aviate earlier this year, through which it obtained an app for personalizing the home screen on Android phones based on what users are doing.

Aviate’s app had been in closed beta. The app is available globally for Android phones in English, with some new features.

The app’s developers have been focused on organizing people’s apps based on any number of signals. Walk by a gym and fitness apps might pop up. Driving in your car might bring music apps like Spotify to the fore.

Yahoo’s version of the app has features to make it more useful, including alerts for weather changes, and a way to connect to conference calls with a single tap.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has spoken out on the company’s efforts to offer more in the way of “contextual search,” with Aviate comprising a key element in that pursuit.

But Aviate exists in a crowded field of apps offering personal assistant-like functions, such as EverythingMe and EasilyDo. Plus, trying to predict what people really want is hard, and could be annoying if not done right.

Apps like Aviate also compete to a degree with Google Now, Google’s mobile tool for iOS and Android that provides different information likes sports scores and news headlines based on data signals specific to the person.

 

 

Microsoft Set To Double OneDrive Free Space

June 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft announced on Monday that it would double OneDrive’s free storage space for consumers to 15GB from its previous allowance of 7GB.

The expansion of the free tier, and other changes to OneDrive, will go into effect in July.

Microsoft’s moves come as all the major players are scrambling to offer customers more for less. Earlier this month, Apple said it would cut prices by up to 70% for paid iCloud plans. And last week Amazon said that users of its Fire phone would have an unlimited amount of storage for photos taken with the device’s camera.

Along with the doubling of the free allotment, Microsoft also said that it would hand subscribers of Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal — the two consumer-grade rent-not-own plans — 1TB (terabyte) per user, up from a comparatively paltry amount of just 27GB. Students who have subscribed to Office 365 University, an $80 four-year program, also will receive 1TB free of charge.

The bump to 1TB per user on the consumer side matched the move Microsoft made in April on Office 365 commercial accounts.

Microsoft will also slash prices for additional storage for those consumers and students who need more than the standard 15GB or 1TB. An extra 100GB will cost $1.99 per month — or $23.88 per year — 52% less than the current $50 annually; the price of 200GB will also drop by 52%, from $100 per year to $3.99 per month ($47.88).

The cuts appear deeper when compared to the monthly payment plan Microsoft offers as an option: Then, the new prices will be 65% to 73% less than the current ones.

On a per-megabyte-per-year basis, the new OneDrive paid-plan prices of about 24 cents will be competitive with Google Drive’s 100GB bump-up (also 24 cents) and Apple’s 200GB offer (24 cents), but will remain twice that of Google’s 1TB deal (12 cents).

Apple has said it will offer a 1TB iCloud plan, but has not revealed what it will charge for that amount.

 

Insurers Hope Home Automation Will Reduce Claims

June 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

If home automation can reduce insurance claims due to fire, water damage and theft, insurers may become advocates for Internet of Things technologies.

That could change the business model for the Internet of Things as it applies to home automation. Insurance companies may one day subsidize the cost of installing the technologies, or possibly cover the entire bill.

Just recently American Family Insurance and Microsoft announced their intentions to work together on home automation technologies.

The companies announced the creation of a Microsoft Ventures Accelerator that’s focused on home automation. American Family Insurance, the eighth largest homeowners’ insurer in the U.S., will be offering equity investments to startups accepted into the program.

American Family’s interest in funding technology development grows out of its experience from an earlier technology venture, the Teen Safe Driver Program. Launched a few years ago, the program includes installation of an accelerometer and event recorder near a vehicle’s rearview mirror.

The recorder is always on and records the interior of the vehicle and what’s outside. When there is an erratic movement, such as a hard brake or rapid acceleration, the recorder saves the previous 10 seconds and the next 10 seconds of the video clip. The clip is transmitted to Teen Safe program professionals, who evaluate it and make it available to parents via a Website.

The accident risk of 16- and 17-year-olds is about nine times that of parents, said Dan Reed, managing director at American Family Ventures. The information from the video is used by parents to help coach their teen driver.

The economics of the program were compelling, said Reed. It cost the insurance company several hundred dollars to outfit a vehicle with an event recorder, and it paid the cost of doing so. But for teens in the program, it has reduced the risk of a crash by 70%.

“That opened our eyes to proactive protection,” said Reed.

As a result of their experience with Teen Safe, American Family began searching for other opportunities to use technology to reduce risk. The search has led to home automation, said Reed.

The major cause of insurance claims by homeowners is weather, and Reed says little can be done about that. The next big problem is fire, and advance sensors could draw correlations with electrical usage in a way that may predict an appliance fire, or even provide an alert of a burner left on.