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Google Glass One Day Sale Proves Successful

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google’s one-day sale of Google Glass appears to have been a success with all units sold out, a blog post by the technology titan suggests.

“All spots in the Explorer Program have been claimed for now, but if you missed it this time, don’t worry,” the Google Glass team wrote on its blog on Wednesday.

“We’ll be trying new ways to expand the Explorer program in the future.”

Google did not respond to a request for more information, but an earlier post about the one-day sale spoke of brisk sales of the $1,500 Internet-enabled headset.

“We’ve sold out of Cotton (white), so things are moving really fast,” the team wrote.

Aside from the white version, Glass was being offered in shades marketed as Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale (grey) and Sky (blue). Buyers had the choice of their favorite shade or frame. Google announced the one-day sale available to all U.S. residents over 18 last week, adding it wasn’t ready to bring the gizmo to other countries. Shoppers who missed it have to sign up for updates at the Glass website.

Only a few thousand early adopters and developers had Glass before the one-day sale, which coincided with a major software update for the heads-up display that put video calling on hold.

An official launch of Google Glass may happen later this year.

 

Red Hat Goes Atomic

April 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The Red Hat Summit kicked off in San Francisco on Tuesday, and continued today with a raft of announcements.

Red Hat launched a new fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) with the title “Atomic Host”. The new version is stripped down to enable lightweight deployment of software containers. Although the mainline edition also support software containers, this lightweight version improves portability.

This is part of a wider Red Hat initiative, Project Atomic, which also sees virtualisation platform Docker updated as part of the ongoing partnership between the two organisations.

Red Hat also announced a release candidate (RC) for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7. The beta version has already been downloaded 10,000 times. The Atomic Host fork is included in the RC.

Topping all that is the news that Red Hat’s latest stable release, RHEL 6.5 has been deployed at the Organisation for European Nuclear Research – better known as CERN.

The European laboratory, which houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and was birthplace of the World Wide Web has rolled out the latest versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation and Red Hat Technical Account Management. Although Red Hat has a long history with CERN, this has been a major rollout for the facility.

The logging server of the LHC is one of the areas covered by the rollout, as are the financial and human resources databases.

The infrastructure comprises a series of dual socket servers, virtualised on Dell Poweredge M610 servers with up to 256GB RAM per server and full redundancy to prevent the loss of mission critical data.

Niko Neufeld, deputy project leader at the Large Hadron Collider, said, “Our LHCb experiment requires a powerful, very reliable and highly available IT environment for controlling and monitoring our 70 million CHF detectors. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is at the core of our virtualized infrastructure and complies with our stringent requirements.”

Other news from the conference includes the launch of Openshift Marketplace, allowing customers to try solutions for cloud applications, and the release of Red Hat Jboss Fuse 6.1 and Red Hat Jboss A-MQ 6.1, which are standards based integration and messaging products designed to manage everything from cloud computing to the Internet of Things.

Courtesy-TheInq

Reddit Going After More Users, Advertisers With New Feature

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Reddit, a website with a retro-’90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As, is trying to attract even more followers, and advertising, by allowing members of its passionate community to post their own news more quickly and easily.

Reddit, majority owned by Conde Nast parent Advanced Publications, last month unveiled a new feature that lets users of the nine-year-old site post live updates, allowing them to report in real time.

The live updates allow selected users, dubbed “reporters” by Reddit, to instantly stream unlimited posts during the course of an event such as the conflict in the Ukraine, an earthquake in Los Angeles, or a game played in real time, without having to refresh the page.

The capability is still in testing mode. So far only users selected on a case-by-case basis can create a live thread. The feature has attracted attention. For example, live threads linked to “Twitch plays Pokemon,” in which users of the Twitch website played an old Nintendo game, garnered 2 million page views in 30 days.

“Reddit members are doing amazing things with very minimal tools and were hitting some barriers,” said Erik Martin, general manager.

Martin, who said the site is not yet profitable and declined to give specific revenue figures, added: “We want to give people a more powerful way to make updates.”

Reddit’s move toward enabling users to fluidly update is the latest move in a battle between social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to use news to engage users, and attract more ad dollars.

Before, Reddit users could not update in real time. The new feature is similar to how people instantly send tweets but keeps the updates together through one thread or “subreddit.”

Reddit, which also gets revenue through e-commerce, has ramped up efforts of late to attract more advertisers. Next week, it plans to unveil city and country targeting capabilities that allow advertisers to address users by geographic market.

One recent ad, specific to Reddit, featured the actors Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, stars of the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” as individual threads.

Some 62 percent of Reddit users get their news through the platform while about half of all Facebook and Twitter users do the same, according to a recent report on the State of the News Media from the Pew Research Center.

“Reddit is all about the community, that is the value they brought to the site as they created it,” said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, who has been following Reddit since it was founded.

“News has always been really important to Reddit,” she said.

Reddit has more than 114 million unique visitors worldwide and has doubled its traffic in 12 months, said Martin. Facebook has more than 1 billion users and Twitter has more than 240 million.

 

MediaTek Shows Off New LTE SoC

April 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek has shown off one of its most interesting SoC designs to date at the China Electronic Information Expo. The MT6595 was announced a while ago, but this is apparently the first time MediaTek showcased it in action.

It is a big.LITTLE octa-core with integrated LTE support. It has four Cortex A17 cores backed by four Cortex A7 cores and it can hit 2.2GHz. The GPU of choice is the PowerVR G6200. It supports 2K4K video playback and recording, as well as H.265. It can deal with a 20-megapixel camera, too.

The really interesting bit is the modem. It can handle TD-LTE/FDD-LTE/WCDMA/TD-SCDMA/GSM networks, hence the company claims it is the first octa-core with on board LTE. Qualcomm has already announced an LTE-enabled octa-core, but it won’t be ready anytime soon. The MT6595 will – it is expected to show up in actual devices very soon.

Of course, MediaTek is going after a different market. Qualcomm is building the meanest possible chip with four 64-bit Cortex A57 cores and four A53 cores, while MediaTek is keeping the MT6595 somewhat simpler, with smaller 32-bit cores.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Updates Office Online

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is updating its Web-based Office Online suite, closing the features gap with the main Office 365 and Office 2013 suites installed on users’ devices.

“We know you want features that allow you to move as seamlessly as possible between Office Online and the desktop,” wrote Kaberi Chowdhury, an Office Online technical product manager, in a blog post Monday.

Improvements to Excel Online include the ability to insert new comments, edit and delete existing comments, and properly open and edit spreadsheets that contain Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code.

Meanwhile, Word Online has a new “pane” where users can see all comments in a document, and reply to them or mark them as completed. It also has a refined lists feature that is better able to recognize whether users are continuing a list or starting one. In addition, footnotes and end notes can now be added more conveniently inline.

PowerPoint Online has a revamped text editor that offers a layout view that more closely resembles the look of finished slides, according to Microsoft. It also has improved performance and video functionality, including the ability to play back embedded YouTube videos.

For users of OneNote Online, Microsoft is now adding the ability to print out the notes they’ve created with the application.

Microsoft is also making Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online available via Google’s Chrome Web Store so that Chrome browser users can add them to their Chrome App launcher. Excel Online will be added later.

The improvements in Office Online will be rolled out to users this week, starting Monday.

Office Online, which used to be called Office Web Apps, competes directly against Google Docs and other browser-based office productivity suites. It’s meant to offer users a free, lightweight, Web-based version of these four applications if they don’t have the desktop editions on the device they’re using at that moment.

 

Mt. Gox Founder Refuses To Appear In U.S. Regarding Bankruptcy

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mark Karpeles, the founder of Mt. Gox, has refused to come to the United States to answer questions about the Japanese bitcoin exchange’s U.S. bankruptcy case, Mt. Gox lawyers told a federal judge on Monday.

In the court filing, Mt. Gox lawyers cited a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which has closely monitored virtualcurrencies like bitcoin.

“Mr. Karpeles is now in the process of obtaining counsel to represent him with respect to the FinCEN Subpoena. Until such time as counsel is retained and has an opportunity to ‘get up to speed’ and advise Mr. Karpeles, he is not willing to travel to the U.S.”, the filing said.

The subpoena requires Karpeles to appear and provide testimony in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

The court papers also said a Japanese court had been informed of the issue and that a hearing was scheduled on Tuesday in Japan.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that, unlike conventional money, is bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network independent of central control. Its value has soared in the last year, and the total worth of bit coins minted is now about $7 billion.

Mt. Gox, once the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan last month, saying it may have lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of the virtual coins due to hacking into its computer system.

According to Monday’s court filings, the subpoena did not specify topics for discussion.

In the court filings, Karpelès’ lawyers asked the court to delay the bankruptcy deposition to May 5, 2014 but said that Mt. Gox could not guarantee that Karpeles would attend that either.

 

BlackBerry Plans To Release Patch For ‘Heartbleed’ Vulnerability

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd said it will release security updates for messaging software for Android and iOS devices by Friday to address vulnerabilities in programs related to the “Heartbleed” security threat.

Researchers last week warned they uncovered Heartbleed, a bug that targets the OpenSSL software commonly used to keep data secure, potentially allowing hackers to steal massive troves of information without leaving a trace.

Security experts initially told companies to focus on securing vulnerable websites, but have since warned about threats to technology used in data centers and on mobile devices running Google Inc’s Android software and Apple Inc’s iOS software.

Scott Totzke, BlackBerry senior vice president, told Reuters on Sunday that while the bulk of BlackBerry products do not use the vulnerable software, the company does need to update two widely used products: Secure Work Space corporate email and BBM messaging program for Android and iOS.

He said they are vulnerable to attacks by hackers if they gain access to those apps through either WiFi connections or carrier networks.

Still, he said, “The level of risk here is extremely small,” because BlackBerry’s security technology would make it difficult for a hacker to succeed in gaining data through an attack.

“It’s a very complex attack that has to be timed in a very small window,” he said, adding that it was safe to continue using those apps before an update is issued.

Google spokesman Christopher Katsaros declined comment. Officials with Apple could not be reached.

Security experts say that other mobile apps are also likely vulnerable because they use OpenSSL code.

Michael Shaulov, chief executive of Lacoon Mobile Security, said he suspects that apps that compete with BlackBerry in an area known as mobile device management are also susceptible to attack because they, too, typically use OpenSSL code.

He said mobile app developers have time to figure out which products are vulnerable and fix them.

“It will take the hackers a couple of weeks or even a month to move from ‘proof of concept’ to being able to exploit devices,” said Shaulov.

Technology firms and the U.S. government are taking the threat extremely seriously. Federal officials warned banks and other businesses on Friday to be on alert for hackers seeking to steal data exposed by the Heartbleed bug.

Companies including Cisco Systems Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, International Business Machines Corp, Intel Corp, Juniper Networks Inc, Oracle Corp Red Hat Inc have warned customers they may be at risk. Some updates are out, while others, like BlackBerry, are rushing to get them ready.

 

Can Micro-Consoles Compete With True Gaming Consoles?

April 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

With Amazon’s Fire TV device the first out the door, the second wave of microconsoles has just kicked off. Amazon’s device will be joined in reasonably short order by one from Google, with an app-capable update of the Apple TV device also likely in the works. Who else will join the party is unclear; Sony’s Vita TV, quietly soft-launched in Japan last year, remains a potentially fascinating contender if it had the right messaging and services behind it, but for now it’s out of the race. One thing seems certain, though; at least this time we’re actually going to have a party.

“Second wave”, you see, rather implies the existence of a first wave of microconsoles, but last time out the party was disappointing, to say the least. In fact, if you missed the first wave, don’t feel too bad; you’re in good company. Despite enthusiasm, Kickstarter dollars and lofty predictions, the first wave of microconsole devices tanked. Ouya, Gamestick and their ilk just turned out to be something few people actually wanted or needed. Somewhat dodgy controllers and weak selections of a sub-set of Android’s game library merely compounded the basic problem – they weren’t sufficiently cheap or appealing compared to the consoles reaching their end-of-life and armed with a vast back catalogue of excellent, cheap AAA software.

“The second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail”

That was always the reality which deflated the most puffed-up “microconsoles will kill consoles” argument; the last wave of microconsoles sucked compared to consoles, not just for the core AAA gamer but for just about everyone else as well. Their hardware was poor, their controllers uncomfortable, their software libraries anaemic and their much-vaunted cost savings resulting from mobile game pricing rather than console game pricing tended to ignore the actual behaviour of non-core console gamers – who rarely buy day-one software and as a result get remarkably good value for money from their console gaming experiences. Comparing mobile game pricing or F2P models to $60 console games is a pretty dishonest exercise if you know perfectly well that most of the consumers you’re targeting wouldn’t dream of spending $60 on a console game, and never have to.

Why is the second wave of microconsoles going to be different? Three words: Amazon, Google, Apple. Perhaps Sony; perhaps even Samsung or Microsoft, if the wind blows the right direction for those firms (a Samsung microconsole, sold separately and also bundled into the firm’s TVs, as Sony will probably do with Vita TV in future Bravia televisions, would make particular sense). Every major player in the tech industry has a keen interest in controlling the channel through which media is consumed in the living room. Just as Sony and Microsoft originally entered the games business with a “trojan horse” strategy for controlling living rooms, Amazon and Google now recognise games as being a useful way to pursue the same objective. Thus, unlike the plucky but poorly conceived efforts of the small companies who launched the first wave of microconsoles, the second wave is backed by the most powerful tech giants in the world, whose titanic struggle with each other for control of the means of media distribution means their devices will have enormous backing.

To that end, Amazon has created its own game studios, focusing their efforts on the elusive mid-range between casual mobile games and core console games. Other microconsole vendors may take a different approach, creating schemes to appeal to third-party developers rather than building in-house studios (Apple, at least, is almost guaranteed to go down this path; Google could yet surprise us by pursuing in-house development for key exclusive titles). Either way, the investment in software will come. The second wave of microconsoles will not be “boxes that let you play phone games on your TV”; at least not entirely. Rather, they will enjoy dedicated software support from companies who understand that a hit exclusive game would be a powerful way to drive installed base and usage.

Moreover, this wave of microconsoles will enjoy significant retail support. Fire TV’s edge is obvious; Amazon is the world’s largest and most successful online retailer, and it will give Fire TV prime billing on its various sites. The power of being promoted strongly by Amazon is not to be underestimated. Kindle Fire devices may still be eclipsed by the astonishing strength of the iPad in the tablet market, but they’re effectively the only non-iPad devices in the running, in sales terms, largely because Amazon has thrown its weight as a retailer behind them. Apple, meanwhile, is no laggard at retail, operating a network of the world’s most profitable stores to sell its own goods, while Google, although the runt of the litter in this regard, has done a solid job of balancing direct sales of its Nexus handsets with carrier and retail sales, work which it could bring to bear effectively on a microconsole offering.

In short, the second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail. Moreover, they’ll be “trojan horse” devices in more ways than one, since their primary purpose will be as media devices, streaming content from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and so on, while also serving as solid gaming devices in their own right. Here, then, is the convergence that microconsole advocates (and the rather less credible advocates of Smart TV) have been predicting all along; a tiny box that will stream all your media off the network and also build in enough gaming capability to satisfy the mainstream of consumers. Between the microconsole under the TV and the phone in your pocket, that’s gaming all sewn up, they reckon; just as a smartphone camera is good enough for almost everyone, leaving digital SLRs and their ilk to the devoted hobbyist, the professional and the poseur, a microconsole and a smartphone will be more than enough gaming for almost everyone, leaving dedicated consoles and gaming PCs to a commercially irrelevant hardcore fringe.

There are, I think, two problems with that assessment. The first is the notion that the “hardcore fringe” who will use dedicated gaming hardware is small enough to be commercially irrelevant; I’ve pointed out before that the strong growth of a new casual gaming market does not have to come at the cost of growth in the core market, and may even support it by providing a new stream of interested consumers. This is not a zero-sum game, and will not be a zero-sum game until we reach a point where there are no more non-gaming consumers out there to introduce to our medium. Microconsoles might do very well and still cause not the slightest headache to PlayStation, Xbox or Steam.

The second problem with the assessment is a problem with the microconsoles themselves – a problem which the Fire TV suffers from very seriously, and which will likely be replicated by subsequent devices. The problem is control.

Games are an interactive experience. Having a box which can run graphically intensive games is only one side of the equation – it is, arguably, the less important side of the equation. The other side is the controller, the device through which the player interacts with the game world. The most powerful graphics hardware in the world would be meaningless without some enjoyable, comfortable, well-designed method of interaction for players; and out of the box, Fire TV doesn’t have that.

Sure, you can control games (some of them, anyway) with the default remote control, but that’s going to be a terrible experience. I’m reminded of terribly earnest people ten years ago trying to convince me that you could have fun controlling complex games on pre-smartphone phones, or on TV remote controls linked up to cable boxes; valiant efforts ultimately doomed not only by a non-existent business ecosystem but by a terrible, terrible user experience. Smartphones heralded a gaming revolution not just because of the App Store ecosystem, but because it turned out that a sensitive multi-touch screen isn’t a bad way of controlling quite a lot of games. It still doesn’t work for many types of game; a lot of traditional game genres are designed around control mechanisms that simply can’t be shoehorned onto a smartphone. By and large, though, developers have come to grips with the possibilities and limitations of the touchscreen as a controller, and are making some solid, fun experiences with it.

With Fire TV, and I expect with whatever offering Google and Apple end up making, the controller is an afterthought – both figuratively and literally. You have to buy it separately, which keeps down the cost of the basic box but makes it highly unlikely that the average purchaser will be able to have a good game experience on the device. The controller itself doesn’t look great, which doesn’t help much, but simply being bundled with the box would make a bold statement about Fire TV’s gaming ambitions. As it is, this is not a gaming device. It’s a device that can play games if you buy an add-on; the notion that a box is a “gaming device” just because its internal chips can process game software, even if it doesn’t have the external hardware required to adequately control the experience, is the kind of notion only held by people who don’t play or understand games.

This is the Achilles’ Heel of the second generation of microconsoles. They offer a great deal – the backing of the tech giants, potentially huge investment and enormous retail presence. They could, with the right wind in their sales, help to bring “sofa gaming” to the same immense, casual audience that presently enjoys “pocket gaming”. Yet the giant unsolved question remains; how will these games be controlled? A Fire TV owner, a potential casual gamer, who tries to play a game using his remote control and finds the experience frustrating and unpleasant won’t go off and buy a controller to make things better; he’ll shrug and return to the Hulu app, dismissing the Games panel of the device as being a pointless irrelevance.

The answer doesn’t have to be “bundle a joypad”. Perhaps it’ll be “tether to a smartphone”, a decision which would demand a whole new approach to interaction design (which would be rather exciting, actually). Perhaps a simple Wiimote style wand could double as a remote control and a great motion controller or pointer. Perhaps (though I acknowledge this as deeply unlikely) a motion sensor like a “Kinect Lite” could be the solution. Many compelling approaches exist which deserve to be tried out; but one thing is absolutely certain. While the second generation of microconsoles are going to do very well in sales terms, they will primarily be bought as media streaming boxes – and will never be an important games platform until the question of control gets a good answer.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Wi-Fi Problems Plague Apple-Samsung Trial

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

There’s a new sign on the door to Courtroom 1 at the federal courthouse in San Jose, the location of the Apple v. Samsung battle that’s playing out this month: “Please turn off all cell phones.”

For a trial that centers on smartphones and the technology they use, it’s more than a little ironic. The entire case might not even be taking place if the market wasn’t so big and important, but the constant need for connectivity of everyone is causing problems in the court, hence the new sign.

The problems have centered on the system that displays the court reporter’s real-time transcription onto monitors on the desks of Judge Lucy Koh, the presiding judge in the case, and the lawyers of Apple and Samsung. The system, it seems, is connected via Wi-Fi and that connection keeps failing.

“We have a problem,” Judge Koh told the courtroom on April 4, soon after the problem first appeared. Without the system, Koh said she couldn’t do her job, so if people didn’t shut off electronics, she might have to ban them from the courtroom.

In many other courts, electronic devices are routinely banned, but the Northern District of California and Judge Koh have embraced technology more than most. While reporters and spectators are limited to a pen and paper in courts across the country, the court here permits live coverage through laptops and even provides a free Wi-Fi network.

On Monday, the problems continued and Judge Koh again asked for all cellphones to be switched off.

But not everyone listened. A scan of the courtroom revealed at least one hotspot hadn’t been switched off: It was an SK Telecom roaming device from South Korea, likely used by a member of Samsung’s team.

The hotspot was switched off by the end of the day, but on Tuesday there were more problems.

“You. Ma’am. You in the front row,” Judge Koh said sternly during a break. She’d spotted an Apple staffer using her phone and made the culprit stand, give her name and verbally agree not to use the handset again in court.

As a result of all the problems, lawyers for Apple and Samsung jointly suggested using a scheduled two-day break in the case to hardwire the transcription computers to the court’s network.

The cable wasn’t installed.

“I believe there were some issues, We’re attempting to install it,” one of the attorneys told IDG News Service during the court lunch break.

So for now, the problems continue.

The clerk opened the day with an appeal to switch phones off, “not even airplane mode.”

That still didn’t help.

The transcription screens failed at 9:09 a.m., just minutes into the first session of the morning.

 

Did Cisco Help The Chinese Government Snoop?

April 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Cisco has been accused of helping the Chinese authorities snoop on, discriminate against and violently suppress the religious group Falun Gong.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has taken Cisco to task about this, and has filed a request to submit an amicus brief in a US District Court in California.

It asks the court to let the case “Doe vs Cisco Systems” go ahead, telling it that the firm has aided China’s human rights abuses.

“China’s record of human rights abuses against the Falun Gong is notorious, including detention, torture, forced conversions, and even deaths. These violations have been well-documented by the UN, the US State Department, and many others around the world, including documentation of China’s use of sophisticated surveillance technologies to facilitate this repression,” it said.

“The central claim in the case is that Cisco purposefully customized its general purpose router technology to allow the Chinese government to identify, track, and detain Falun Gong members.”

The EFF alleges that Cisco was asked to customize its kit so that the Chinese authorities could pick up Falun Gong ‘signatures’ and enable the logging and monitoring of traffic patterns.

Its lawsuit alleges that Cisco knew about this customization, knew that it would be used to repress the Falun Gong, and still marketed and supported the technologies “towards that purpose”.

“In fact, the case arises in part from the publication several years ago of a presentation in which Cisco confirms that the Golden Shield is helpful to the Chinese government to ‘Combat Falun Gong Evil Religion and Other Hostilities’,” adds the EFF.

“It also alleges that these customization’s were actually used to identify and detain the plaintiffs.”

Cisco has declined our request to comment on the views of the EFF and its lawsuit.

Courtesy-TheInq

Does Facebook Want Its Own e-Currency?

April 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook wants to create an in-house digital currency system that its members can spend and trade on its website.

The Irish Times reports that the Irish central bank has been approached by the social network and is rather close to approving its request.

Those aims include the creation of Facebook currency that Facebook members will be able to use to pay for things within the social network and, presumably, its associated properties.

“Facebook wants to become a utility in the developing world, and remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion,” said a person close to Facebook’s plans.

We have asked Facebook and the Irish central bank about the proposals and have yet to receive any responses. The report said that the deal could be announced within as few as three weeks.

Facebook already has the right to make some in-house transactions in the US, and according to the Irish Times it facilitated $2.1bn worth of transactions in 2013.

The report said that the social network has already chatted with three companies in the field, and named them as Transferwise, Moni Technologies and Azimo. Again we have asked the firms to confirm or deny this.

Facebook has danced with digital currency before, but abandoned the idea in 2012. It used Facebook credits for in-app payments, but was accused of forcing developers to use it. Then Facebook was taking a 30 percent cut of transactions.

In 2012 the firm announced micro transactions on mobile phones, saying that they would simplify everything.

“The payment flow is simple,” Jessi Xu, a Facebook software engineer said in a blog post at the time. “Users who want to pay for a virtual or digital good in a mobile web app open the payment dialog and confirm their purchase.”

Courtesy-TheInq

IRS Missed Windows XP Deadline, To Pay Microsoft Millions

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirmed that it missed the April 8 cut-off for Windows XP support, and will be shelling out Microsoft millions for an extra year of security patches.

Microsoft terminated Windows XP support on Tuesday when it shipped the final public patches for the nearly-13-year-old operating system. Without patches for vulnerabilities discovered in the future, XP systems will be at risk from cyber criminals who hijack the machines and plant malware on them.

During an IRS budget hearing Monday before the House Financial Services and General Government subcommittee, the chairman, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) wondered why the agency had not wrapped up its Windows XP-to-Windows 7 move.

“Now we find out that you’ve been struggling to come up with $30 million to finish migrating to Windows 7, even though Microsoft announced in 2008 that it would stop supporting Windows XP past 2014,” Crenshaw said at the hearing. “I know you probably wish you’d already done that.”

According to the IRS, it has approximately 110,000 Windows-powered desktops and notebooks. Of those, 52,000, or about 47%, have been upgraded to Windows 7. The remainder continue to run the aged, now retired, XP.

John Koskinen, the commissioner of the IRS, defended the unfinished migration, saying that his agency had $300 million worth of IT improvements on hold because of budget issues. One of those was the XP-to-7 migration.

“You’re exactly right,” Koskinen said of Crenshaw’s point that everyone had fair warning of XP’s retirement. “It’s been some time where people knew Windows XP was going to disappear.”

But he stressed that the migration had to continue. “Windows XP will no longer be serviced, so we are very concerned if we don’t complete that work we’re going to have an unstable environment in terms of security,” Koskinen said.

According to Crenshaw, the IRS had previously said it would take $30 million out of its enforcement budget to finish the migration.

Part of that $30 million will be payment to Microsoft for what the Redmond, Wash. developer calls “Custom Support,” the label for a program that provides patches for critical vulnerabilities in a retired operating system.

Analysts noted earlier this year that Microsoft had dramatically raised prices for Custom Support, which previously had been capped at $200,000 per customer for the first year. Instead, Microsoft negotiates each contract separately, asking for an average of $200 per PC for the first year of Custom Support.

Using that average — and the number of PCs the IRS admitted were still running XP — the IRS would pay Microsoft $11.6 million for one year of Custom Support.

The remaining $18.4 million would presumably be used to purchase new PCs to replace the oldest ones running XP. If all 58,000 remaining PCs were swapped for newer devices, the IRS would be spending an average of $317 per system.

 

 

Federal Gov’t Wants Instagram Data From Facebook Now

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook released its second government requests report covering the second half of 2013, and it expands its scope from the first one in two ways. First, it includes requests to restrict or remove users’ content from the site, whereas the first report was limited to requests for account information. And second, the report now includes data on Instagram, the photo sharing site owned by Facebook.

Facebook is not breaking out the number of Instagram requests; they’re included in the overall tallies. But Instagram’s inclusion speaks to the popularity of the service, which Facebook acquired in 2012 but didn’t include in its government requests report for the first half of 2013.

The report includes data on government requests to receive data about Instagram accounts and to restrict access to its content.

Facebook receives requests to restrict or remove content based on countries’ laws over what can be shared online. When the request is legally sound, Facebook restricts access to content in the specific country whose government objected to it. If Facebook also determines that the flagged content violates its own standards, it removes the content globally. Separately, Facebook also receives requests for account information and data, many of which relate to criminal cases such as robberies or kidnappings.

Facebook does not hand over data every time it receives a government request — sometimes the requests are overly broad or vague, or do not comply with legal standards, the company says.

In the U.S., Facebook received about 12,600 law enforcement requests in the second half of 2013, up from the range of 11,000-12,000 it tallied in its first report. For the second half of 2013, Facebook said it produced data for about 81 percent of the requests.

Regarding U.S. government requests about national security matters, Facebook reported it may have received none or as many as 999, saying it couldn’t be more specific due to U.S. legal restrictions.

Governments in other countries across the world are also interested in Facebook users’ data. India ranked second behind the U.S. with about 3,600 requests targeting more than 4,700 accounts. Facebook produced data for roughly half of those requests.

More than 1,900 requests came from the U.K., while the governments of France, Germany and Italy each served Facebook with more than 1,600 data requests.

Besides Facebook, other companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft periodically release their own government request reports, as part of an effort to be more transparent to users. The tallies have taken on increased significance following leaks about U.S. government surveillance made by former contractor Edward Snowden.

 

Amazon Rumored To Launch Smartphone In Time For Christmas Season

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon.com Inc is making plans to unveil its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.

The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.

Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable U.S. market share after just a few years on the market.

Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market.

Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.

To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

Amazon officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

Google Shows Interest In Service Robots, Invests In Savioke

April 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has put funding into robotic’s company Savioke, which plans to develop a robot that could work in places such as nursing homes and hospitals.

The search engine’s funding arm, Google Ventures, invested an undisclosed sum that’s part of a $2 million seed financing package led by Morado Venture Partners, with AME Cloud Ventures and individuals also pitching in.

Established in 2013, California-based Savioke is led by CEO Steve Cousins, who was in charge of the creation of the PR2 robot and the popular Robot Operating System (ROS) while president and CEO of Willow Garage, an influential robotics firm that spun off eight robotics companies.

Savioke did not give details about its plans to develop a service robot, but said the machine would use the open-source ROS and customer trials would begin later this year.

Its website describes its aspiration to bring robotics to “hotels, elder care facilities, hospitals, restaurants…anywhere people sleep or eat.”

“We see tremendous opportunity by delivering a robot for the services industry,” Cousins wrote in an email. “In the coming months, the information and feedback we receive from our trials will help us determine our first point of entry.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for information about the investment.

With former Android chief Andy Rubin leading its interest in robotics, the search engine has been on a shopping spree for robot companies lately.

It has acquired such firms as Japan-based Schaft, which developed a full-size bipedal humanoid robot that won the prestigious DARPA Robotics Challenge trials in December 2013. The challenge is sponsored by the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an arm of the Department of Defense.

The jewel in Google’s robot crown, however, is Boston Dynamics, a military contractor known for creating both humanoid machines such as the Terminator-like Atlas, and robots inspired by animals, such as BigDog, a cargo-carrying machine funded by DARPA.

Google CEO Larry Page has speculated that Rubin’s robot project could succeed like Android.