Browsing articles from "March, 2013"

Facebook Announces Android Event April 4

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Facebook sent out invitations to press Thursday for an Android event to be held at its Menlo Park campus next week.

The event invitation simply invited press to “Come See Our New Home on Android,” with no further description of what’s in store.

Early rumors speculate that the announcement may be the long-rumored “Facebook Phone,” a handset created through a partnership with HTC that would run a modified version of Android with deep Facebook integration.

During an interview late last year, however, CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated that a phone has “always been the wrong strategy” for Facebook, making a “Facebook Phone” announcement, at least in the hardware sense, seem pretty unlikely.

“Let’s say we build a phone,” he said in September. “We’re not, but if we did, we could maybe get 10 to 20 million people to use it … It doesn’t move the needle for us.”

“The strategy we have is different from every other tech company [like Apple] that’s building their own hardware system — we’re going in the opposite direction.”

At the time he indicated that the company wanted to “build a system, which is as deeply as possible integrated into every major device people want to use.”

That system, or a new part of it, may be what we see next Thursday.

What do you think Facebook is announcing next week? let us know your thoughts in the comments.


10 Firefox Add-Ons for Designers

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Firefox is an incredibly popular browser, chiefly due to the vast library of available extensions and add-ons. Since we spend huge chunks of our days working in browser windows, increase productivity by adding functionality to Firefox and cutting down time spent on external applications.

From color pickers to tab managers and DOM inspectors, these 10 essential Firefox extensions are geared towards designers.

Have we missed any of your favorite extensions? Share your recommendations in the comments.


image via iStockphoto


Google Play Movies Come to India and Mexico

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Google Play movies are now available for rent in India and Mexico, Google has announced.

Users in those countries can watch movies on the web or through the Google Play Movies & TVAndroid app.

Google has also started rolling out support for 6 Indic languages in Gmail on the feature phone browser: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. Users can switch to the desired language in the browser’s settings.

Google has started selling its Nexus 7 tablet in India Tuesday, and these recent updates are obviously part of the company’s push to one of the world’s most populous countries. Nexus 7 is available in India in the Google Play store for $294, and it will start shipping to customers on April 5.

Image credit: Google


Your Data Isn’t Safe — Now What?

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Imagine a library. Every night, the library locks its doors. But one night, a burglar manages to get in. All the books and manuscripts are gone, right? Not in this library. You see, in this library, most of the books themselves are locked down, and the ones the robber does manage to carry with him turn out to be outdated travel guides and self-help books from 1974.

Admittedly, this would be a strange way of running a library. But for businesses looking to protect their vital data assets, something like it could become the future. The concept is called “data-object security,” and it relies on a principle most people are reluctant to admit: All systems are inherently insecure.

The idea is actually as liberating as it is worrisome. Today, systems such as email are generally protected by a single password that, if broken, allows an intruder to run as far as he wants inside your in-box. Networks and servers are similarly vulnerable; they’re little more than a lockbox for your data. But if you assume that the lock will eventually get broken, that frees your attention to focus on what happens next.

This is where data object security comes in. It’s a setup that doesn’t just protect data at a system level; it also protects the individual bits and bytes of data inside the system. What if every file, or even every cell in a spreadsheet, came along with a set of rules governing what different people would see when they opened it up? The rules might say, Bob from accounting can see one part of this file — just the part he needs to do his work effectively — while John, an outside federal regulator, might be able to see a little more, and Steve, at the executive level can open up that same file and see everything Bob and John saw, and more.

Here’s another way to look at it. If data security means defending the library that holds your information, data-object security is about defending what goes into the library itself. The two ideas are radically different, and according to Josh Sullivan, a vice president for data analytics at Booz Allen Hamilton, as more businesses come around to the latter, a common ideal promoting good data stewardship will emerge.

“It’s a whole new way of thinking,” Sullivan told me. Take it far enough, and you wind up in a future where access to data is democratized. Right now, businesses jealously guard their information because once a file has been opened, all of its contents are visible to the reader and to whomever he or she sends it to. By contrast, data becomes more useful to more people when access is limited to only what they need.

With data-object security, firms and agencies will be able to track their information with more accuracy, too. For every piece of their data that gets called up by, say, an academic, businesses (not to mention all the academic’s peers) will know where that data had previously been and where it is allowed to go next. In dataspeak, Sullivan told me, to understand the trajectory of a piece of data is to trace its lineage.

Rules about data can also be set up according to pedigree — a measure of who is accessing the information (think tanks? high-school clubs? hobbyists?) and how useful they’ll find it (can you make accurate financial predictions with it, or is it only good enough to get a general idea of the market?). Remember that what makes this concept so powerful is that all of these attributes can be applied to the same file.

Data democratization requires businesses and governments to be a little more comfortable sharing — and that raises privacy concerns. No commercial standard currently exists for ensuring data privacy, and in its absence, many are turning to a totally different field for answers: medicine.

“In HIPAA, we’ve got a process,” said Jules Polonetsky, a former chief privacy officer at AOL, referring to the federal law that determines who can view and share patients’ medical records.
“It’s been laid out, and it may or may not be perfect, but it says you must follow these rules and de-identify health data.”

Taking the same principles that govern anonymized medical information and applying them to commercial or administrative data may not need a law, Polonetsky told me. It might be that some common understanding could evolve among companies themselves. But using HIPAA as a model at least provides a baseline for comparison so that businesses know just how rigorous their data policies are.

Privacy advocates and proponents of data are often at odds with one another. One side generally views the explosive growth of data as a creepy development ripe for abuse, and the other often looks at data in almost utopian terms. Yet it’s possible that the new advances in security may create an opportunity to bring the two closer together.

“Data-object security gives you finer-grain security, but it also encapsulates the rules of, ‘How can I share this data, and with whom, and how long do I keep it?’ and you start to embed the stewardship of the data as descriptors on the data itself,” Sullivan said. “That’s the key to enabling data democratization — where the right person can get the right data when they need it.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, John McStravick


Microsoft to End Support for Windows Phone 8 July 2014

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Microsoft has revealed the product support life-cycle for Windows Phone 7.8 and Windows Phone 8 will end in the second half of 2014. Specifically, Microsoft plans to support Windows Phone 8 until July 8, 2014, and Windows Phone 7.8 until Sept. 9, 2014.

These dates are derived from the life-cycle start date, which is Dec. 14, 2013 for WP8, and Feb. 9, 2013 for WP7.8. Microsoft’s support page explains the company product support strategy as follows:

“Microsoft will make updates available for the Operating System on your phone, including security updates, for a period of 18 months after the life-cycle start date. Distribution of the updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your phone. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and hardware capabilities.”

According to a recent Microsoft job listing, the company is planning to release a new version of Windows Phone for the holiday season. Current WP8 devices should be upgrade-able to that version, which will likely get its own 18 months of support.

Photo by Mashable


Flickr Adds Hashtags to iOS App

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Flickr released an update to its iOS app on Saturday, adding hashtag support to the photo-sharing service’s mobile platform.

While Flickr has long used a tagging system to categorize pictures on the web, the term “tags” has been renamed to follow the ever-popular trend of hashtags. The app also introduced #FlickrFriday, where adding the hashtag let the user instantly participate in Flickr’s weekly photo challenge.


RebelMouse: How to Create Your Personalized Social Front Page

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Have you heard about RebelMouse, the social media aggregator — or “social front page” — created by former Huffington Post CTO Paul Berry?

Based on the idea that people’s personal websites are often neglected, RebelMouse takes your social presence across the major networks and organizes it into what it calls a “beautiful, dynamic and social site.”


Let us know in the comments below if you’re using RebelMouse and what you think of it.

Image courtesy of Flickr, techne


Samsung unveils Galaxy S IV, LifeCampanion

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Samsung on Thursday unveiled Galaxy S IV, its flagship Android smartphone, at an event in New York. The new phone, which is powered by the latest version of Android calledJelly Bean and next-generation hardware, will compete against Apple iPhone, HTC One, Nokia Lumia 920, Sony Xperia Z and other high-end smartphones that will be launched later in the year. Currently, Samsung has not announced any price.

“We’ve taken technology and innovation to help us get closer to what matters in life. We will imagine the possibilities, explore a new direction, and listen to you, to help us understand what a smartphone should provide in our lives,” said J K Shin, who heads Samsung Electronics.

The phone, which has been launched with tagline ‘Life Companion’, will be available in several markets across the world by the end of April. While so far there is no official word from Samsung about the launch in India, it is expected that India will be among the first batch of countries to get the device. Samsung usually launches Galaxy S devices in India within weeks of the global launch and according to sources this time too the plan is same.

The price of the device is likely to differ from country to country. In India it may cost around Rs 40,000 in the market considering Galaxy S III sells for around Rs 28,000 and Galaxy Note II has a market price of around Rs 34,000.

While hardware has always been a focus of Samsung, on this occasion the company has extensively focused on the software. Galaxy S IV is powered by Android 4.2, the latest version of the mobile operating system but uses Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz user interface. In terms of look, TouchWiz doesn’t compare very well to the stock user interface in Android. But it has some unique features that Samsung hopes will woo customers.

The most important of these features is gesture-based control, which allows a user to perform several tasks on the phone without touching the screen. With the help of the front camera, Samsung allows users to perform many ‘smart’ functions even if they don’t touch the device. A prime example of smart gesture is ‘smart pause’ which pauses videos automatically if a user looks away from the screen. It resumes the video once the users again looks at the phone. Similarly, users can scroll down on to a web page while reading an article by simply swiping their hand from up to down in air. They don’t need to touch the screen.

Among other important software features are Dual Mode, which allows simultaneous use of rear and front camera for video capture, and an inbuilt translator.

Galaxy S IV is a flagship phone that is going be in the market for at least one year. To make sure that it doesn’t get obsolete soon, Samsung has packed it with the top-of-the-line hardware. On paper, it is the world’s fastest smartphone currently and is expected to retain this crown, at least until phones powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 4 hit the market later this year.

Galaxy S IV is powered by Exynos 5410 processor. It has eight cores with four of them being the high-performance cores based on A15 architecture from ARM, a British company. These cores run at 1.8GHz. The other four cores, which are slower – 1.2GHz – but more power efficient, are based on A7 architecture. The graphics part of the processing chip uses three cores of PowerVR 544. The phone has 2GB DDR3 RAM. It sports a 4.99-inch SuperAMOLED screen with FullHD (1920×1080 pixels) resolution. Its primary camera can shoot images in 13 mega pixels while the front camera has a maximum resolution of two mega pixels. Two cameras are capable of recording FullHD videos.

As far as internal storage is concerned, the phone will come in three variants: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. The phone also supports a microSD card of up to 64GB. Battery capacity of the device has been rated at 2600 mAh. It weighs 130 grams.

For Samsung, the Galaxy S IV is a crucial launch in its battle against Apple. For years, Apple has managed to keep iPhone ahead of the pack but Galaxy S series phones are slowly catching up. The last phone in this series Galaxy S III, though failing to beat iPhone 5 in overall sales, almost matched the Apple offering in terms of features and performance.

According to IDC, Samsung led the list of top smartphone makers in 2012 with a market share of around 30%. Apple was second with the market share of around 19%. However, in terms of revenue and profit from smartphones, Apple was ahead of Samsung.

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Sundar Pichai to head Google’s Android division



San Francisco: Andy Rubin is stepping down as head of Google Inc’s Android division after he helped turn the software into the world’s most widely-used mobile operating system.

Google’s browser and applications chief Sundar Pichai will replace Rubin, bringing the firm’s mobile software, applications and Chrome browser under one roof.

Larry Page, Google’s chief executive and co-founder, credited Rubin for evangelizing Android more than half a decade ago and said the decision to switch was Rubin’s. Page was mum on Rubin’s future role in a blogpost on Wednesday announcing the switch.

Rubin built Android into a free, open-source software platform now used by most of the world’s largest handset manufacturers, from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to HTC Corp.

Android is now installed on roughly two-thirds of the world’s smartphones, supplanting Apple Inc. at the pinnacle of the fast-moving mobile arena.

Android tablets are also expected to overtake Apple’s iPad in terms of shipments in 2013, IT research house IDC predicted on Tuesday.

“Going forward, Sundar Pichai will lead Android, in addition to his existing work with Chrome and Apps. Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use-and he loves a big bet,” Page wrote in the blog post.

“Andy’s decided it’s time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google. Andy, more moonshots please!”

Mr Pichai, who began his engineering training in India before moving to the United States, aggressively pushed Google’s Chrome browser in 2008, when Microsoft Corp’s Explorer lorded over the market. Chrome now commands a roughly 35 percent market share according to Web traffic analyzers Stat Counter.

He is also credited with the development of some of the company’s more successful apps, such as Calendar and Gmail.



Google unveils talking shoes

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WASHINGTON: Developing Google Glass was not enough for the internet firm, the tech giant has now unveiled a pair of talking shoes.

But that does not mean the search giant is planning to get into the sneaker or footwear business.

The experiment was designed to highlight its new advertising platform called Art, Copy and Code.

Google took a few pairs of Adidas sneakers and crammed in a small computer, an accelerometer, a pressure sensor, a gyroscope, speaker and Bluetooth.

The shoe can tell what you are or aren’t doing and can then relay that information to your phone via Bluetooth or to you via the speaker in the top tongue of the shoe.

Aman Govil, lead of the advertising arts team, told ABC News that the ‘Talking shoe’ is an experiment in how one can use connected objects to tell stories on the Web.

If one puts what the shoe knows through an algorithmic logic engine, it can translate it into copy, Govil explained.

Now if that copy is given to an interesting copy writer, one could give the shoe personality. One shoe could be the trash-talking shoe, he added.