Showing posts from February, 2014

Google Glass: Freaky, geeky tech toy aims to save lives

Developers are hard at work making Google Glass more than a tech toy
SAN FRANCISCO - Walk around this tech capital and you'll spot someone wearing Google Glass, a device that spawns everything from envy to eye-rolling as debates rage over the wearable computer's pros (hands-free tool) and cons (distracting privacy invader).
But don't smirk too fast: one of those early adopters could wind up saving your life. Around the country, coding-capable fans of the device are quietly taking it upon themselves to leverage Glass's futuristic properties for good.
In Michigan, a programmer is developing software that allows Glass to monitor a driver's eyes and send visual and auditory alerts at signs of drowsiness. In North Carolina, a fireman has spent his own time and money to develop an app that routes incoming 911 calls and the locations of fire hydrants to his Glass. And in Texas, a health care entrepreneur is working with anesthesiologists to make their rounds safer and more e…

Microsoft may sell Windows 8.1 for cheap — or even give it away

Microsoft really wants to get Windows 8.1 in consumers' hands.
To boost the number of folks using the operating system, Microsoft is reportedly considering giving it away for free or selling it at a very low cost, according to The Verge.
If slashes the price tag of Windows (and Windows Phone OS) to zero, the Redmond-based company may look to service add-ons - like additional OneDrive cloud storage - to pick up some of the slack. Microsoft is also positioning Bing as a platform it can monetize in the future.
It makes sense, then, that the SKU at the center of Microsoft's monetization experiment is 'Windows 8.1 with Bing,' a new version of the upcoming Windows 8.1 update revealed by Windows leaker WZor (and reported by ZDNet).
If Microsoft indeed chops its OS licensing fee for Windows device makers, as some recent reports have suggested, Microsoft will have to make a tough choice. It currently bundles a bunch of services with Windows: OneDrive, various Bing services, Xbox mu…

Microsoft experimenting with free version of Windows 8.1

Microsoft is currently experimenting with a free version of Windows 8.1 that could boost the number of people using the operating system. Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans tell The Verge that the company is building 'Windows 8.1 with Bing,' a version that will bundle key Microsoft apps and services. While early versions of the software have leaked online, we understand that Windows 8.1 with Bing is an experimental project that aims to bring a low-cost version of Windows to consumers. ZDNet first reported some Windows 8.1 with Bing details earlier this week.
Designed as a free or low-cost upgrade for Windows 7 users
We're told that Microsoft is aiming to position Windows 8.1 with Bing as a free or low-cost upgrade for Windows 7 users. Any upgrade offers will be focused on boosting the number of people using Windows 8.1. This Bing-powered version of Windows 8.1 may also be offered to PC makers as part of recent license cuts for devices under $250. It's not clear …

Nokia: Imaging SDK set for Android Nokia X Platform

BARCELONA: NOKIA HAS REVEALED to The INQUIRER that its Imaging software development kit (SDK) likely will come to its Nokia X platform, enabling developers to build high-end photography apps for its low-end, Android-based smartphones.
Nokia's Imaging SDK allows developers to create imaging apps for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1, such as Nokia's own Creative Studio app that it boasts was built using the developer kit.
However, Windows Phones didn't feature heavily at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC), as Nokia instead focused on showcasing its Android-based Nokia X smartphone line, comprising the Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL.
While you'll find some of Nokia's usual apps onboard, such as Music and Here maps, there are none of the high-end camera applications found on the Nokia Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1020 handsets, due to the Nokia X devices' low prices. However, Nokia said that its Imaging SDK might appear on the Nokia X range 'when the time is right…

Google's Verify Apps security updating to always scan for threats

Android security has always been a hot topic in the media media. The way people talk about it, you'd expect reports of malware-infected phones every day. But thanks to Google, Android is very safe and secure from malware. Even when new malware does surface, Google makes sure nearly all Android devices are safe as quickly as possible.
Google has two systems to fight malware. The first is Verify Apps, a local system that scans each app when it's sideloaded. It'll scan for malicious actions, like SMS abuse or malware spreading, and will warn you if it finds anything dangerous. The second is the server side system on Google Play, which scans all apps on the Play Store for safety and security. Anywhere you install apps from, Google has you covered.
Remember the 'Master Key' vulnerability that people got pretty mad about? It was publicized one day, and Google rolled out protection from it the next. Verify Apps was updated with the security measure a few weeks later, long b…

Sony finally puts full weight behind Xperia phones

Sony executives tell CNET how they feel about Samsung taking its own marquee feature -- a dust and water-resistant body -- and putting it in the Galaxy S5.

(Credit: Andrew Hoyle/CNET)
BARCELONA, Spain -- You would think Sony's mobile executives would be even a little nervous.
After all, for more than the past year, they have been touting one unique feature for a premium smartphone: the ability to withstand dust particles and be dunked underwater.
So there must have been some cause for concern when Samsung said its flagship Galaxy S5 -- unveiled just hours after Sony's own flagship phone and tablet announcement -- would also be resistant to water and dust, right?
Not really.
'We started the waterproof trend,' Ravi Nookala, head of Sony's US mobile division, told CNET in an interview. 'We're not worried about it.'
Bold words from what amounts to the new kid on the block for smartphones. While Sony is still a force to be reckoned with in areas such as televisions…

App updates you should know: WeChat comes to Mac, Hangouts for iOS ...

It's been a rather busy week for apps with some getting new features, new clients and new platforms and some shutting down. Have a look at some app stories you cannot afford to miss this week.
Facebook Messenger for Windows desktop:
The desktop client of Facebook Messenger is shutting down come March 3. The app has started showing a link saying, 'We're sorry, but we can no longer support Facebook Messenger for Windows, and it will stop working on March 3, 2014. We really appreciate you using Messenger to reach your friends, and we want to make sure you know that you can keep chatting and view all your messages on' The move comes only days after it was announced that Facebook Messenger was coming to Windows Phone soon.

Goodbye, desktop. Hello, mobiles
WeChat gets a Mac client:
Cross platform messaging app WeChat is stepping up its game, and how. After completely revamping its Android client, WeChat has introduced a Mac app, available both in English …

Google Now, Google's new Android launcher, lifts off

OK, Google: 3... 2... 1... Now.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) finally opens up its new Android launcher. Albeit for Nexus and Google Experience devices, for now.
In IT Blogwatch, bloggers start apps slightly differently.
Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
I met Ron Amadeo on a Monday and my heart stood still:
When KitKat launched, Google made the odd decision to make [the] a brand-new launcher, exclusive to the Nexus 5. [It's] actually a merging of the standard home screen with the Google Search app. ... Today, Google finally released the new launcher on to the Play Store for other devices. Owners of older Nexus devices and any Google Play Edition device can update. ... Will the company soon open this up to other devices? Will Google eventually package it...into the licensing requirements for the Play Store? It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. MORE
And Darrell Etherington sheds a tear:
It's perhaps a little sad for users outside the '…

Google postpones add

Gives extension developers until May 1 to put their work in the Chrome Web Store; new policy will probably take affect with Chrome 35
Computerworld - Google yesterday gave Chrome extension developers another two months to register their work with the browser's online store, after which the company will throw a 'kill switch' on most add-ons that were installed from other sources.
The deadline extension means that Google won't implement the new policy on the 'stable' version of Chrome for Windows -- one of three build channels the company maintains, and the most polished of the trio -- until after May 1. The beta of Chrome 33 for Windows, which launched mid-January, already has the policy in place.
'Some developers have requested more time to complete this transition, so we've decided to extend the window until May 1 before we start enforcing this policy for the Windows Stable channel,' said Erik Kay, director of Chrome engineering, in a Wednesday blog.

Court says it's legal to look at map on phone while driving

Talk or text you may not, but it is legal for drivers to look at maps on their cellphones while on the road, a California appellate court ruled Thursday.
The 5th District Court of Appeal sided with a Fresno man who received a $165 ticket when he consulted a map application on his phone, looking for an alternate route around a traffic jam. Steven Spriggs had unsuccessfully fought the ticket in traffic court and later in Superior Court, arguing that the law only prohibited talking on the phone, not looking at a map.
Judges on the appellate court reversed the lower court, writing that the law was not intended to impose a blanket ban on any use of a cellphone. They noted that when the law was enacted in 2006, no one used their phones for much other than conversation. (The first iPhone debuted in 2007.)
Attorneys for the state argued that the law, which prohibits 'using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and tal…

Google Barge, $35 million and counting

Even though the famous floating showroom is leaving Treasure Island for Stockton, it's still far from ready for prime time -- and Google is still on the hook for half a million dollars in rent.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
Google Barge is about to be on the move, relocating from its current berth alongside Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay to Stockton, a delta city about 80 miles west.
But what does that mean for the future of the project, expected to be a floating showroom for Google X products and concepts like Glass, driverless cars, and more?
It's hard to say for sure, because no one in the know is talking. What is known is that the $35 million project, made out of dozens of shipping containers, and intended to float from location to location around the San Francisco Bay and beyond, is unfinished and not ready for prime-time. As of this writing, it is sitting idle in the middle of San Francisco Bay, covered in scaffolding and black netting, with little or no wor…

Report: British spy agency collected millions of Yahoo users' images

A British intelligence agency reportedly intercepted and stored millions of images from Yahoo users' video chats.
Under a program code-named Optic Nerve, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, would collect still images in bulk from users when they chatted with others via webcam through Yahoo, the Guardian reported on Thursday. The report cited documents provided by U.S. surveillance program leaker Edward Snowden.
During a six-month period in 2008, the GCHQ collected images from more than 1.8 million Yahoo users through the Optic Nerve program, the report said. Most of the users were not suspected of any wrongdoing.
PHOTOS: 10 ways to use the sharing economy
The point of the program was to capture pictures of users' faces that could be stored in a database. The database could then be used to search for terror suspects or criminals.
'Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for 'mugshots' or even for face recognition by assessing t…

Volvo Concept Estate Revealed for Geneva Show

The wagon might just come back in style, and no surprises here, we've got Volvo to thank. The Swedish automaker will show the Concept Estate, the final of three concept cars previewing Volvo's future design direction, at the 2014 Geneva auto show. The Concept Estate carries the same modern design language as the previous Volvo Concept Coupe and Concept XC Coupe, and its subtle, refined take on the classic Volvo wagon is sure to make waves at Geneva.
When we first saw the Concept Coupe at last year's Frankfurt show, design editor Robert Cumberford called it, 'undoubtedly the prettiest Volvo ever shown.' Volvo's new design language struck us as not truly retro, but it did draw inspiration from the 1960s Volvo P1800 coupes. After years of more boxy and business-like designs, Volvo's future style is according to Cumberford, 'elegantly beautiful, even if there's nothing innovative about it.' The Volvo Concept Estate falls right into this characterizat…

Moov fitness tracker actually tells us how to fix ourselves

A powerful, low-cost device that 3D maps whatever it's strapped to could seriously shake up fitness-oriented wearable tech.

(Credit: Moov)
The complaints with wearable fitness trackers are routinely uniform. If a device is slim and sleek, it tends not to provide very useful data beyond counting steps and telling you when you rolled around in your sleep. If it's powerful, on the other hand, it's typically bulky and designed at the expense of looking like something you'd actually want to wear in public.
The team behind Moov, originating from a partnership between a former Apple engineer and two veterans of sensor research at Microsoft, is trying to change that paradigm. They're offering a device that they say is not only as well-designed as competing gadgets, but also one that can tell us what we're doing wrong -- and how to fix it -- in real time by identifying and then 3D mapping the object it's attached to.
That makes Moov, with its companion mobile software t…

EU to Apple, Google: Free game apps? Yeah, right

European regulators fret that free downloads deliver games that aren't actually free to play, and that children are especially vulnerable to costly in-app purchases.

(Credit: Apple)
Apple and Google will be among the organizations to talk to the EU this week about the impact 'freemium' apps are having on the industry.
In a statement on Thursday, the EU's European Commission said that it wants to investigate in-app purchases on games that can be downloaded for free. The Commission argues that while games can be downloaded for free, they essentially compel customers to pay for add-ons that bring functionality to the title, and that belies the idea of truly playing a game for 'free.'
So-called 'freemium' games and apps have become increasingly popular in mobile marketplaces. The titles can be downloaded at no cost, but come with a wide range of in-app purchases that help the developer, who might have spent thousands on developing the title, to generate a retur…

Sony finally puts full weight behind Xperia phones

Sony executives tell CNET how they feel about Samsung taking its own marquee feature -- a dust and water-resistant body -- putting it in the Galaxy S5.

(Credit: Andrew Hoyle/CNET)
BARCELONA, Spain--You would think Sony's mobile executives would be even a little nervous.
After all, for more than the past year, they have been touting one unique feature for a premium smartphone: the ability to withstand dust particles and be dunked underwater.
So there must have been some cause for concern when Samsung said its flagship Galaxy S5 -- unveiled just hours after Sony's own flagship phone and tablet announcement -- would also be resistant to water and dust, right?
Not really.
'We started the waterproof trend,' Ravi Nookala, head of Sony's US mobile division, told CNET in an interview. 'We're not worried about it.'
Bold words from what amounts to the new kid on the block for smartphones. While Sony is still a force to be reckoned with in areas such as televisions, vide…

DataStax Brings In

(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)
Web and mobile applications are getting bigger and people are as impatient as ever. These are two factors hastening the use of in-memory technology, and DataStax on Wednesday became the latest database management system (DBMS) vendor to add in-memory processing capabilities.
DataStax Enterprise is a highly scalable DBMS based on open source Apache Cassandra. Its strengths are flexible NoSQL data modeling, multi-data-center support, and linear scalability on clustered commodity hardware. Customers like eBay, Netflix, and others typically run globally distributed deployments at massive scale.
[Want more on recent in-memory moves? Read VoltDB Steps Up In-Memory Analytics.]
With the DataStax Enterprise 4.0 release announced on Wednesday, the vendor is adding an in-memory option whereby developers can move new or existing database tables into memory to ensure ultra-fast performance. The move comes in response to growing numbers of DataStax customers…

15 percent of Internet users think the Web is bad for society, Pew says

The web turns 25 this year. Its birthday, however, may not be celebrated by everyone.
Fifteen percent of Internet users said it has been bad for society, according to the Pew Research Center, in the first of several reports commissioned to look at the rise of digital technologies. Six percent of users said it was bad for them personally, based on data from telephone interviews with roughly 1,000 adults, according to findings released Thursday.
What's driving those icky feelings? The Washington, D.C.-based think tank says it did not follow up with respondents about their answers, but the research group has seen a number of issues over the years that tend to gnaw at people about online life, said Lee Rainie, director of the center's Internet and American Life Project.
Chief among them: An increasing digital divide between 'haves' and 'have-nots'; online bullying; using the web to communicate only with like-minded people; its ability to spread misinformation; the los…

Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S specs comparison

SAMSUNG UNVEILED its Galaxy S5 flagship smartphone at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this week, and it's no doubt hoping its specifications will tempt buyers away from Apple's iPhone 5S.
While the two smartphones have similar names, they have different hardware and software, and are both looking to win the affections of punters in the market for a top-end smartphone.

We have lined up the two smartphones head to head on paper to find out which one comes out top in terms of specifications.
Design, measurements and weightiPhone 5S: 124x59x7.6mm, 112gSamsung Galaxy S5: 142x73x8.1mm, 145g
With the Apple iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5 having 4in and 5.1in screens, respectively, it's clear which one is going to attract buyers after a compact, pocketable smartphone.
The iPhone 5S is both thinner and lighter than Samsung's Galaxy S5, measuring 7.6mm thick and tipping the scales at 112g. The Galaxy S5, in comparison, measures a slightly chunkier 8.1mm thick and weighs 145g.
The smartpho…

Cloud security concerns are overblown, experts say

RSA panel compares enterprise fears of cloud security to early, now eased, concerns about virtualization technology
Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- Security concerns should not deter enterprises from using public cloud technologies when it makes business sense.
A panel of practitioners said at the RSA Security Conference here this week agreed that if cloud providers are vetted properly, most enterprise workloads and data can be safely migrated to cloud environments.
Any lingering questions by IT security pros about data security and privacy of cloud computing will be allayed just as concerns about virtualization were in the past, they said.
'The horse is largely out of the barn,' said John Pescatore, director of research at the SANS Institute. 'There is no debate about whether we are going to use the cloud,' he said.
Today, though, security concerns are still the major inhibitor of cloud adoption at many large companies. The concerns are most significant among those IT exe…

Skype now lets you sign up with a Microsoft account, updates its Windows ...

It's been a long time coming, but Skype's revealed that folks can finally sign up for service using a Microsoft account. Skype believes this feature is perfect for users who perhaps want the least amount of logins possible, and it also points to Microsoft's two-step verification as a benefit for having such an account. Meanwhile, the Windows Phone app has been updated with a number of security improvements, plus an indicator which lets you know when the person on the other side is typing. As part of the integration with its parent company, Skype will now require a Microsoft account (like the one used to set up your WP device) when registering for a new account through the application. This new version is only available for Windows Phone 8, however -- as you might recall, support for the app on earlier versions of the OS was cut off months ago.