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Import your Destiny character to sequels


Destiny doesn't come out until September 9, but Bungie is already talking about the possibility of sequels and wants players' characters to persist throughout the series.

Speaking with Digital Trends, Bungie Engineer Roger Wolfson said that character growth is an important part of the first-person shooter / role-playing game hybrid.

'Our goal for Destiny is that each time you play it, you're going to have a different experience. Not just because of the social interaction, and the fact that you can play with different people, but because your character is growing and will have different ways of playing the same content every time you go back and replay it,' said Wolfson.

'Let's say Destiny 2 [and] Destiny 3 are out, and we have new players joining the fun,' Wolfson continued. '[They] want to play those new games alongside those who have been playing Destiny from the beginning. [We want to ensure] they won't feel like they're four years behind. And then, if they want to, they'll be able to go back and pick up the old content on their same character.

'So we've done a lot of planning for how that's going to work, to not make people feel like they have years worth of leveling up to do.'

Wolfson also explained the lack of cross-platform multiplayer in Destiny, saying it's about ensuring an equal playing field.

'Regardless of where the reality is, there's definitely a perception among gamers that better hardware means you have an advantage. We don't want to have to enter that fray, so to create the best, most level playing field, both actually and perceptually, we separated it by platform,' he said.


Google Might Turn New York Payphones Into Wi

New York is turning its outdated payphones into something more practical: Wi-Fi hotspots.

Since most people own cellphones, it makes sense to provide free Wi-Fi rather than a public payphone, according to a report from Bloomberg.

A document on New York City's Information Technology and Telecommunications website reads, 'The widespread adoption of mobile devices reduces the overall need for public telephones, yet not everyone owns a mobile phone, and not everyone who owns one has connectivity at all times. The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) is currently exploring the future of the public pay telephone and potential alternative or additional forms of telecommunications facilities on NYC sidewalks, such as wireless access.'

TechCrunch reported that Google, Samsung, Cisco and IBM attended a meeting to discuss possible wireless options, with Google leading the pack. An announcement released on Monday revealed that the city has officially decided to go forward with the project. New York is still undecided about which tech giant will pave the way, but because Google already provides wireless access in the Mountain View and Chelsea neighborhoods, Google is likely to win out.

The city's announcement listed Brooklyn Heights, Astoria, Soho, the Fur-Flower District, the Theater District, Grand Central, Midtown and Upper West Side as the first eight boroughs to begin utilizing payphones as hotspots.

Yahoo to buy analytics startup Flurry to bolster mobile ads

Yahoo Inc will buy mobile analytics startup Flurry to beef up a fast-growing mobile advertising business that still lags Google Inc's and Facebook Inc's in scale.

Six-year-old Flurry uses analytics to help target ads at consumers, by monitoring activity on more than half a million apps on some 1.4 billion mobile devices around the world, Yahoo said in a statement on Monday.

Loblaws on Queen st. at Portland st. in downtown Toronto. July 15, 2013. The Globe and Mail



The startup provides information to help marketers and brands more easily reach their desired audiences, Yahoo said.

Yahoo did not cite a price tag, but influential tech blog re/code earlier cited people with knowledge of the situation as saying that Yahoo paid 'hundreds of millions' of dollars.

Flurry will operate much as before after the acquisition closes, and its team will remain in their current locations, Yahoo added.

Like its rivals, Yahoo has been investing in its mobile advertising platform, as users increasingly access the Internet from smartphones and tablets. Its mobile advertising revenue more than doubled in the second quarter.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeBusiness

Hidden iOS Services Bypass Security

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Apple's iPhone and iPad run undisclosed services that allow security features to be bypassed, according to a prominent computer security researcher.

In a presentation at the HOPE/X hacking conference in New York on Friday, forensic researcher Jonathan Zdziarski described several undocumented iOS services that can function backdoors, allowing ostensibly encrypted data to be accessed and subverting user privacy.

[It's round two for an old type of virus you thought was dead. Read Retro Macro Viruses: They're Baaack.]

Zdziarski in a blog post stresses that he is not accusing Apple of working with the NSA, but he voices suspicion that the NSA might have used some of these services to access data on iOS devices, as described in a recent Der Spiegel report.

'I am not suggesting some grand conspiracy,' Zdziarski explains. 'There are, however, some services running in iOS that shouldn't be there, that were intentionally added by Apple as part of the firmware, and that bypass backup encryption while copying more of your personal data than ever should come off the phone for the average consumer.'

Zdziarski says he hopes Apple will correct the issue because these services should not be present. He claims to have emailed both CEO Tim Cook and former CEO Steve Jobs about these 'backdoors,' some of which have existed for years, and to have received no response.

In a paper describing his findings, the services and are among the most questionable code routines that Zdziarski discusses. The former launches a silent packet sniffer that allows the the client to copy the network traffic and HTTP header data coming in and out of the device. The latter accepts a list of requested data sources, and delivers an archive of the data requested, bypassing Apple's built-in backup encryption system in the process.

These services and related ones, which have been augmented over the years by Apple, appear to represent an effort to provide law enforcement agencies with easier access to device data. Yet it's accepted wisdom among computer security experts that backdoors are a bad idea because they're potentially exploitable by anyone -- investigators, intelligence agencies, or cyber criminals.

'When parties communicate using services with [lawful intercept] features, there is an increased likelihood that an unauthorized and/or malicious adversary with the right technical knowledge and access to the system could capture communications contents without detection,' a Center for Democracy and Technology report noted last year.

Zdziarski questions why Apple allows a packet sniffer to run on some 600 million iOS devices, why there are undocumented services that bypass user backup encryption, and why most iOS user data is still not encrypted to protect it from Apple.

Nobody wants to be the next data breach headline. But ensuring that cyber-security defenses are operating effectively and efficiently is a monumental challenge given the sheer volume of information coming at us. Here's how to streamline your program. Get the Metrics That Work: Practical Cyber-Security Risk Measurements report today (registration required).

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

Oracle Big Data SQL: 5 Key Points

Oracle's new big data tool won't cover all the analysis bases, but it will enable SQL-savvy professionals to query Hadoop and NoSQL sources.

Oracle announced last week that it will open up access to Hadoop and NoSQL data with Oracle Big Data SQL, a feature to be added to the Oracle Big Data Appliance in the third quarter. The new tool has some limitations, as this article describes, but the good news is that it will enable Oracle Database shops to take better advantage of big data using existing skills and expertise.

We were on the right track last week when compared Oracle Big Data SQL to Teradata Query Grid and Microsoft PolyBase. All three technologies are about SQL querying across databases and big data platforms, and all three ultimately move data to the vendor's respective SQL database. There are differences under the hood that will make a difference for Oracle customers. We'll get to these nuances in a moment, but what's encouraging is that Oracle is not presenting this SQL tool like a hammer and all big-data-analysis challenges like nails. The idea is simply to enable SQL-trained professionals to do as much as possible with information from Hadoop and NoSQL sources from the familiar environs of Oracle Database.

[Want more on the Spark option for big data analysis? Read Databricks Spark Plans: Big Data Q&A.]

Like many Oracle customers, we watched last week's Oracle Big Data SQL launch presentation and heard about all the advantages of this feature. In a follow-up interview with Oracle executives Dan McClary, product manager, and Neil Mendelson, VP of product management, we asked about limitations and got more detail on how this feature works. We also got a frank assessment of what Oracle Big Data SQL can and can't do. For example, McClary and Mendelson were clear in saying that Oracle Big Data SQL is not a SQL-on-Hadoop tool intended to replace Hive, Impala, or other analysis options that operate exclusively on Hadoop.

Here, then, are five key points would-be customers should know about Oracle Big Data SQL:

1. Access is limited to Oracle's appliance, Cloudera's software, and, at first, Oracle NoSQL Database. Oracle Bid Data SQL is a feature of the Oracle Big Data Appliance, so that's the only place it can run. At this point it's not planned to be available as stand-alone software for use with Hadoop deployed on non-Oracle hardware. What's more, Oracle execs said there are no plans to make it run on any Hadoop distribution other than Cloudera -- the software bundled with the Oracle Big Data Appliance.

The feature will also be limited to working with the Oracle NoSQL Database, with is the other software component in the Oracle Big Data Appliance bundle. Here, at least, there are plans to open up access to non-Oracle products, including Cassandra, Hbase, and MongoDB.

'The Hadoop community has been very good about coming up with data storage handlers for Hive, so we'll use those to consume data from a number of other NoSQL data stores,' McClary explained. This move is 'at the top of our list,' he said, but it will have to wait for a subsequently release of Oracle Big Data SQL.

The sooner Oracle can add support for the most popular NoSQL databases the better. Teradata Query Grid, by contrast, offers direct access to MongoDB. As for the limitation of working only with the Oracle Big Data Appliance and Cloudera software, we think Oracle should rethink this approach, as many companies have deployed Cloudera and other Hadoop distributions without using Oracle's appliance. Teradata Query Grid and Microsoft PolyBase are not limited to specific big data appliances or Hadoop distributions. Why not bundle Oracle Big Data SQL with Oracle Database instead of the Big Data Appliance?

2. Oracle Smart Scan minimizes data movement. Oracle made a virtue of necessity when it developed the Smart Scan feature for the Exadata appliance. The technology gave Oracle the power of distributed processing at a storage-tier level, boosting scalability without changing the Oracle Database itself.

Smart Scan effectively prescreens data on the storage tier and brings only that which is relevant up to the database level. Oracle Big Data SQL with run Smart Scan on Hadoop using the metadata generated by Hive. Once again the feature minimizes data movement, in this case from Hadoop to Oracle database.

During Oracle's launch presentation, McClary shared the example of correlating Twitter data from Hadoop with customer transaction data in Oracle Database. Smart Scan first filtered out Tweets without discernable sentiments, eliminating more than 50% of the original data, and it then eliminated Tweets that lacked latitude and longitude information. The final subset represented less than 1% of the total Twitter stream in Hadoop, cutting data movement to Oracle Database (and thus query time) by 99%. All of this was accomplished with a single SQL query, according to McClary, and the final result was visualized with a map (shown above) pinpointing sentiment correlated with sales profitability by location.

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

Google mulls transforming NYC pay phones into Wi

NEW YORK _Google is among several technology companies considering a plan that uses pay-phone locations to give New Yorkers free wireless Internet access.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company was among more than 50 attendees at an informational meeting in May for the project, according to a city document. Bids for the proposal are due on Monday.

The No. 1 search provider is stepping up efforts to provide digital access in the U.S. and around the world as it seeks to get more consumers on the Internet, benefiting its own user and ad services. The company, which is working toward rolling out broadband services in several U.S. cities, already provides wireless access in Mountain View and New York's Chelsea neighborhood, where it has an office.

Kelly Mason, a spokeswoman for Google, declined to comment. Other companies that attended the presentation were Cisco Systems, IBM and Samsung.

The project calls for new designs to replace pay phones, providing 'advertising, Wi-Fi and phone services' in all five boroughs. While the companies can charge for phone service, except for 911 and 311 calls, they can't charge a fee for Internet access, a document said. There are more than 7,300 pay phones in the city.

The WiFi stations will be located in the city's most densely trafficked corridors, with revenue generated by advertising on their side panels, according to the city's request for proposals. Of the 4,325 pay phone locations that already have advertising side panels, about two thirds are in Manhattan, 15 percent in Queens, 12 percent in Brooklyn, 6 percent in the Bronx and a small number in Staten Island.

'The widespread adoption of mobile devices reduces the overall need for public telephones, yet not everyone owns a mobile phone, and not everyone who owns one has connectivity at all times,' a document on the city's website said regarding the project. The Wi-Fi hot spots will need to work together, enabling users to log in once and stay connected.

The project began in 2012 under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and is set to be expanded by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The former mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Cisco Brings DevOps To The Network

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DevOps has come to the network. Cisco is helping network engineers and managers who are conversant in programming make the leap to the software-defined network (SDN) environment. It wants to make sure people trained in Cisco technologies are ready for SDN, and it's been quietly gathering resources for them to use in its emerging, more open networking environment.

'We've been arguing to the executive committee that we need to have a strategy and program for developers,' as well a product line loaded with routers, switches, and other networking gear, said Susie Wee, VP and CTO of Networked Experiences. Cisco has turned to Wee and Rick Tywoniak, director of the new Cisco DevNet program announced Monday.

DevNet is meant to be a community of the enterprise network developers among its customers, its ISVs, independent systems integrators, and Cisco partners, producing software applications to run the programmable network of the future. It will have some characteristics of an Open Flow network, where the devices on the network don't arrive as preconfigured or self-configuring, based on spanning tree or other network protocols, but await instructions from a central controller.

[Want to learn more about DevOps? See Agile, DevOps, Cloud: IT's New Trinity.]

By 2020, Cisco expects to have 1 million developers enrolled as network programmers.

In the past, developers struggled to get software applications to work with proprietary network equipment. 'The network wasn't software friendly,' conceded Wee in a blog posted on the Cisco site Monday.

'Today the development environment is rich and ready to take advantage of the open and intelligent network,' she wrote.

Cisco got its first taste of how much interest there is in programmable networks when it staged a developer lab at Cisco Live in San Francisco at the end of May. The second floor of the Moscone West Convention Center was filled with attendees wanting to get a better understanding of how the network might be programmable in the near future.

To some extent, Cisco has always made software development kits and tools available that work with its equipment. But a larger development platform is emerging in open source code projects, such as the Linux Foundation's OpenDaylight Hydrogen, or through SDN-oriented startups such as BigSwitch, or through HP's Intelligent Management Center. Cisco is striving to keep up with these initiatives through SDKs, visual modeling tools, ready-to-use code samples, and more accessible REST-based APIs through partner Mulesoft, with 100 currently available. Also, DevNet will supply a community where members may come to rely on each other for shared experience and support.

In addition, DevNet will serve as an education and delivery vehicle for Cisco's approach to the SDN, its Application Centric Infrastructure. It has in beta the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC EM), software that sits on the network controller and discovers what devices are on the network and how they're configured, or it finds a way to retrieve information on the devices. With the APIC EM 'the network becomes programmable,' said Wee. It won't be generally available until sometime in 2015.

A developer with knowledge of network security could produce an application on top of the APIC EM that addressed a particular security issue, which would then be deployed onto the network. In the past, the network staff would have had to rely on the vendor or a network security specialist to do such a thing, Wee said.

There's a longer term goal behind DevNet, as well: to draw the network operations engineers and network developers closer together in a shared framework. Operations staff seldom have had the chance to have any input on applications governing the network. Network application developers have seldom had any experience in running a particular network that needs new software.

'We hope to cross-pollinate hot-shot software developers with mission-critical operations people,' Wee said.

Coming later this year will be a fixture that both may wish to use: a cloud-based sandbox environment for software-defined networking. Both developers and operators will be able to produce code and test-drive it in a safe environment, Wee said.

In its ninth year, Interop New York (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) is the premier event for the Northeast IT market. Strongly represented vertical industries include financial services, government, and education. Join more than 5,000 attendees to learn about IT leadership, cloud, collaboration, infrastructure, mobility, risk management and security, and SDN, as well as explore 125 exhibitors' offerings. Register with Discount Code MPIWK to save $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

Part of the DevNet approach will be to offer a Cisco-sponsored DevNet App Store where customers, independent developers, and systems integrators may all offer network software that they produced for download to other customers. The store is expected to be available sometime in 2015, Wee said.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

Is Chrome Sucking The Life Out Of Your Laptop's Battery?

Ian Morris of Forbes has discovered that Google's Chrome browser for Windows can drain a laptop's battery. The problem was first reported back in 2010, and Google is just now getting around to addressing the problem.

Morris reports that the issue stems from a misuse of the 'system clock tick rate.' When a user opens the Chrome browser, the rate is automatically set to 1.000 ms, and it stays that way until the user closes the browser. That means the processor, which stays 'asleep' when nothing is going on, is awakened 1000 times per second. That can raise power consumption by as much as 25 percent.

When consumers open Internet Explorer or Firefox, the rate will stay at 15.625 ms until the processor is required to do something, and the rate is increased to 1.000 ms. Watch a YouTube video, and the tick rate jumps to 1.000 ms. Close the tab, and Internet Explorer and Firefox will shift back to 15.625 ms.

Morris said that he performed a test on his desktop, and discovered that when idle, it eats up 15 to 20 watts with Chrome running. When he closed Chrome entirely, the power consumption dropped down to 12 to 15 watts. He points out that on a desktop, this isn't a problem, but on a laptop, power consumption is 'massively important.'

So what can consumers with laptops do about this problem? Switch to a different browser until the issue is resolved. Web surfers can also 'star' the issue on the bug tracker. However, given that Google is now looking into the problem (thanks to the coverage, no doubt), using an alternative browser for now seems to be the best option.

Microsoft's Productivity Story: Showtime For Nadella

Give the Microsoft CEO credit for his articulate vision. Now comes the hard part: execution.

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No one can accuse Satya Nadella of keeping quiet during his first five-and-half months as Microsoft CEO.

Nor should anyone claim he's merely a caretaker, a company yes man who's just carrying out the bidding of a not-so-mysterious wizard behind the scenes. Last week kinda-sorta eviscerated that notion, from his 3,000-plus-word, company-wide missive to his keynote address at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) to, most recently, telling his employees that 18,000 of them would soon be out of a job.

Microsoft is Nadella's show now, and the CEO deserves high marks for communication in his early days at the helm. He's proving adept at telling a lucid story, whether sharing his vision of the future or delivering bad news to a whole lot of people. Even the keywords that anchor the new corporate vocabulary -- 'productivity' has become Nadella's go-to term -- better connect with real people than, say, 'devices and services.' (When's the last time you said 'Let me check my device' when looking for a restaurant or directions? For that matter, when's the last time you thought of Skype as a 'service' instead of just, you know, 'Skype?' Never, maybe?)

[Say goodbye to the old days. Microsoft Shows Tech 'Monopolies' Don't Last.]

'To my mind, Satya Nadella's [WPC] keynote was the most definitive and clear vision and gameplan commitment coming out of any top IT company CEO in a long time,' Techaisle analyst Anurag Agrawal said in an email interview. 'He has recognized that there is very little difference between a consumer and a professional, that today's consumer is living in a collaborative economy, that individual productivity impacts professional group productivity, and therefore he has laid down the gauntlet of re-designing productivity in a collaborative, multi-device, post-PC world.'

Indeed, Nadella seems to be in touch with the real world -- something that wasn't a given at Microsoft of late. (Windows 8, anyone?) He's not a robot and he's not tone-deaf. His email to employees announcing the largest downsizing in company history -- around 14% when it's all said and done, probably the right long-term move but, in the short-term, a lousy day for a lot of people -- had a certain grace uncommon in such communications. It was honest, direct, and well-structured, without sounding inhuman or patronizing. In the wrong hands, this kind of bad-news memo from the C-suite becomes stilted and loses sight of its intended audience.

For comparison, read Stephen Elop's email to Microsoft Devices Group employees, who will bear the worst of the staff reduction. To borrow a journalism term, Elop buried the lead -- 12,500 of you are going to lose your job -- three-quarters of the way through his email. The message had a certain funereal feel at times, except it appeared to mourn the final passing of Nokia rather than the imminent end of thousands of jobs. And even as Elop acknowledged that the old Nokia is gone -- 'It is particularly important to recognize that the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia,' he wrote -- his use of the pronoun 'our' did not seem to mean 'Microsoft.'

Layoffs are tough stuff, most of all, of course, for the people whose jobs are gone. There's not really a 'good' way to handle them, but Nadella, publicly at least, did as a fine a job as one could expect, even if the cuts were inevitable.

'Layoffs are not good for the employees, but Nadella is on a mission for the greater good of the organization, creating a path for nimble movement rather the glacial pace it has been experiencing while others whiz by,' Agrawal said.

Guessing who those 'others' are does not require strenuous brain calisthenics. Apple and Google have thumped Microsoft in the mobility arena. It may be a mobile-first world, but for Microsoft it's been a mobile-distant-third world to date. Microsoft got its you-know-what kicked when smartphones and tablets exploded onto the scene. Now the new Apple-IBM partnership threatens Microsoft where it has been historically most dominant: enterprise IT. Meanwhile, Google's Android is a growing monster, especially in the lower-price phone segments that Microsoft hopes will be a boon for Windows Phone adoption.

So, yeah, Microsoft needs agility and speed in abundance. Its competition has never been more ferocious. Now is not the time for corporate bloat. Nadella gets that. Better still, he's doing a good job of showing that he gets it each time he takes a stage or sends a company-wide email.

There's a difference, though, between envisioning a good story and sitting down to write it. Los Angeles is full of people with 'a great idea for a movie.' It's home to far fewer people who actually write the script or get behind the camera.

In its ninth year, Interop New York (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) is the premier event for the Northeast IT market. Strongly represented vertical industries include financial services, government, and education. Join more than 5,000 attendees to learn about IT leadership, cloud, collaboration, infrastructure, mobility, risk management and security, and SDN, as well as explore 125 exhibitors' offerings. Register with Discount Code MPIWK to save $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

We'll hear more from Satya Nadella when Microsoft reports earnings Tuesday. He's been saying the right things so far, even when they're unpleasant. Now, can he and Microsoft deliver?

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

What happens when a $35000 Tesla arrives?


What happens when a much more affordable Tesla arrives? An expert offered his thoughts to CNET.

Tesla said this week that its $35,000 entry, due in 2017 (or thereabouts), will be called the Model 3. One of the keys to making a cheaper Tesla is battery technology, as CEO Elon Musk pointed out to Auto Express earlier in the week.

I chatted with John Voelcker, senior editor for High Gear Media, which publishes Green Car Reports, in the wake of the news. He offered insight into what impact a lower-priced Tesla might have.

Q: Tesla has sold very pricey cars to date. How might a $35,000 Model 3 shake things up? John Voelcker: A list price of $35,000 is a very nice place to be as compared to the current Model S, which is selling well for its category, but this is a category that starts at $70,000 and goes up to six figures. So, if Tesla can in fact introduce the Model 3, as it's now called, at a base price of $35,000 with a 200-mile electric range, that will take them into a whole new order of magnitude of volume.

Why can't they do that today? Voelcker: Lithium ion battery costs need to come down (as one salient reason), both through advances in technology and higher volumes. They made the Roadster, which was a two-seat performance car. They made 2,500 of those. They've made more than 50,000 of their Model S sedans. Once you get into volume manufacturing, like the Model 3 that Musk described, then you're talking not about tens of thousands of cars per year but, ideally, hundreds of thousands of cars per year. That battery production capacity doesn't exist. That's where the gigafactory comes in. Musk said we can't do the Model 3 unless we have that factory.

What do you attribute the American public's fascination with the Tesla to? This could trigger a sales surge, correct? It seems to me that a lot of people are waiting on the sidelines for a more affordable Tesla. Voelcker: Tesla has had an ability to market itself without actually paying for much marketing and attract tens of thousands of devoted followers. It has grabbed the imagination of the technology-following public and the car-buying public in a way that I don't think [has] very many other parallels. If the company can deliver a stylish design with a 200-mile range or greater and can use the existing supercharger network of recharging sites all over the country -- and the world -- at a price of $35,000, I suspect there are a large number of people who will line up to buy one.

That said, Tesla may not be as alone offering such a car as they have been. [Others] could produce a car as good and as stylish. By the time the Model 3 begins to be delivered to customers you will have vehicles with similar specifications both from Nissan -- which has sold more electric cars than anyone else in the world -- and GM, who has a 200-mile electric car [in the works].

The fact the Tesla even exists is a bit a of miracle, don't you think? Voelcker: When's the last time a group of entrepreneurs started a car company from the ground up, whose brand is still with us today? The answer to that question: 1924.

More Chinese people going online via phones than PCs


BEIJING: The number of China's internet users going online with a mobile device - such as a smartphone or tablet - has overtaken those doing so with a personal computer (PC) for the first time, said the official China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) on Monday.

China's total number of internet users crept up 2.3% to 632 million by the end of June, from 618 million at the end of 2013, said CNNIC's internet development statistics report.

Of those, 527 million - or 83% - went online via mobile. Those doing so with a PC made up 81% the total.

China is the largest smartphone market in the world, and by 2018 is likely to account for nearly one-third of the expected 1.8 billion smartphones shipped that year, according to data firm IDC.

The increase in internet users was mainly driven by mobile, which grew 5.4% from the 500 million users at the end of 2013. The number of mobile shoppers surged 42% from December through June.

Chinese e-commerce is dominated by Alibaba Group, which is preparing for a mammoth initial public offering widely expected to take place in September.

Alibaba's biggest competitor is, which specializes in business-to-customer e-commerce in a similar vein to, and is 17.6% owned by Alibaba arch-rival Tencent Holdings.

Other online mobile services with rapid growth from the end of 2013 include music, video, gaming, search, and group-buying, all of which experienced double-digit increases.

The fastest growing services were mobile payment, where users shot up 63.4%, online banking, with a 56.4% rise, and mobile travel booking, which was up 65.4%.

But not all internet activity saw growth. Users of microblogs such as Tencent Weibo and that offered by Weibo fell for the second six-month period in a row, by 1.9% to 275 million.

They numbered 331 million at the end of June last year before the government in September started clamping down on 'online rumours' which it said threatened social stability.

Blockbuster mobile messaging apps such as Tencent's WeChat have since become venues of choice for users who want to express views without fear of retribution.

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Search Warrant For GMail User's Emails Sparks Privacy Worries

A federal judge in New York has issued a warrant against the search-engine giant Google, giving US prosecutors access to the Gmail emails of an unnamed user, who is part of a criminal investigation into money laundering.

The warrant, which US Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein issued on Friday, has raised the issue of privacy because it forces Google to give prosecutors access to all the user's emails.

See no email?

What has perked the ire of privacy campaigners is that before now, US judges have denied prosecutors broad-based access to a users' emails, arguing that access to all emails - not just relevant ones - would be a breach of the individuals' right to privacy.

Judge Gorenstein admitted that his decision runs counter to previous rulings in similar cases, but explained that under US law, investigators can review large amounts of documents before they decide which emails are covered by the warrants.

The Google warrant comes after a similar case in April, when US Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York ordered Microsoft to hand over information held at its Dublin, Ireland data centre to US law enforcement. There is no word at the moment where the Google emails reside, and Google has declined to comment on the case.

Microsoft however argued that it was 'generally accepted that a US search warrant in the physical world can only be used to obtain materials that are within the territory of the United States'.

Redmond has appealed that court order, which will be heard later this month.

Government Snooping

There has been heightened tension over the US government's access to people's data across the world, thanks to the leaks of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden revealed the wholesale data collection programmes of agencies such as the NSA, which sparked outage around the world.

Firms accused of collaborating with the NSA, including Microsoft and Google, have been on the PR offensive arguing they will protect users' interests, since customers have become increasingly concerned about the privacy of their information.

What do you know about Edward Snowden and the NSA? Take our quiz!

Geopolitical tensions could slow gas price declines, AAA says

Even though gas prices in Central Florida continued to decline by 8 cents compared to a week ago, news that a Malaysian airliner was shot down last week is putting pressure on the price of oil, AAA reports.

'Oil rose on concerns that violence could spread in response to the crash,' said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA-The Auto Club Group. 'Gas prices are currently falling more than a half-cent a day, but geopolitical tension could slow the rate of discount at the pump this week.'

The national and Florida average prices for a gallon of regular unleaded are 5 cents cheaper than last week and fell for the 23rd consecutive day on Sunday. The current average price for a gallon of self-serve regular in Florida is $3.50.

In Orlando, gas prices currently average $3.38 for a gallon of self-serve regular, compared to $3.46 a week ago.

iPhone 6 screen could be sapphire

Sandpaper scratch test performed on iPhone 5S and alleged iPhone 6 screens. Photograph: Marques Brownlee

Apple has patents for a sapphire-glass blend screen that could explain why sandpaper can scratch a supposed leaked iPhone 6 screen, the Guardian has established.

A new video that apparently shows a 4.7in sapphire screen from an iPhone 6 being scratched by sandpaper could 'certainly' be a legitimate blend of sapphire and glass, according to Prof Neil Alford of the department of materials at Imperial College London, who was consulted by Apple about sapphire screens 18 months ago.

'Apple has patents for both sapphire lamination - taking two different cuts of sapphire to induce strain and increase its resilience - and for fusing quartz or silica (glass) to sapphire,' Alford explained to the Guardian. 'So they could certainly do that.'

From lens to screen

Apple currently uses sapphire crystal for its camera lenses and the cover of the iPhone 5S's Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but the super-hard material could make excellent screens that are much more scratch resistant than traditional glass and potentially even Corning's Gorilla Glass, which covers the majority of smartphone and tablet screens.

Apple has entered into a joint venture in the US with GT Advanced to build plants and furnaces able to produce sapphire in industrial quantities for a 'critical component' that it said in trade documents would be shipped abroad for assembly. That could refer to the touch sensors - or to screens.

The new video shows Marques Brownlee scratch both an iPhone 5S screen - which uses the third generation of Gorilla Glass - and the alleged iPhone 6 4.7in screen with two different types of sandpaper.

A softer garnet sandpaper, which is about six on the Mohr scale, and emery, which is about eight on the Mohr scale, were used on the two screens.

'The Mohr scale is a relative scale used by geologists and mineralogists to describe minerals and goes from one, which is super soft, to 10, which is super hard,' explained Alford. 'The softest mineral on the scale is talc rising to quartz at number seven and diamond is 10. Corundum, which is sapphire, is number nine.'

'The relative hardness of sapphire is 400, compared to quartz which is 100, so it is a lot harder than quartz,' Alford stressed.

Quartz is a crystal formed from silicon dioxide, the main component of glass and sand, and is used in electronic components including digital watches as part of the time keeping mechanism.

'Smash the thing up, stick it under a microscope'

In the video, Brownlee manages to scratch both iPhone screens with the sandpaper, with the alleged iPhone 6 screen showing higher resistance to scratching with the garnet and emery sandpapers than the iPhone 5S Gorilla Glass screen. The sapphire home button of the iPhone 5S resisted all scratches from both sandpapers.

Brownlee concludes that the leaked iPhone 6 screen could be a blend of sapphire crystal and traditional glass, which Alford agrees is possible.

'I would smash the thing up, stick it under a microscope and you'd have your answer as to whether this is aluminium oxide (sapphire) or silicon dioxide (glass),' said Alford. 'You can't truly tell until you get it under a microscope.'

Marques Brownlee takes sandpaper to an iPhone 5S and alleged iPhone 6 screens.

Sapphire crystals are made from aluminium oxide powder, compared to silicon dioxide in standard glass. Once heated and cooled, it can be cut and formed into glass-like layers - known as sapphire glass. The optically transparent material has long been used for camera lenses as well as the screens of high-end watches because of its combination of scratch resistance and high transparency.

Sapphire has many advantages over glass, but has been prohibitively expensive to produce in large areas despite abundant raw materials. Creating artificial sapphire is not a problem in smaller areas for electronics and other uses, much in the same way artificial diamonds are used in manufacturing.

* Sapphire crystal - why Apple's interested in a precious gem

Facebook testing 'Buy' option to allow users to make purchases directly on the ...

In an announcement made last week via a post on the 'Facebook for Business' blog, social network Facebook has revealed that a new feature is being tested by the company to enable users to purchase products directly from ads as well as posts on the News Feed.

According to the announcement, the new feature - a 'Buy' button on ads and Page posts - is presently in its trial phase; and will be accessible only by a few small and mid-size businesses in the US. The 'Buy' option will be available for specific products on the Facebook website and the company's mobile app, starting Thursday.

An image of the 'Buy' button in the blog post showed that the button is positioned in the right corner of the ads which are generally displayed to the users when they scroll through their Facebook news feeds.

A click on the 'Buy' button will show up a dialog box which will prompt the users to enter their payment details and shipping address. The credit-card information entered by the users will be transmitted by Facebook to a third-party payments processor; giving the details of the order to merchant, so that the order can be duly shipped.

About the 'Buy' option being tested by Facebook, the company said in the blog post: 'With this feature, people on desktop or mobile can click the 'Buy' call-to-action button on ads and Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook.'

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