Tag: Google

Cheap Chromebook wave approaches

chromebookA number of vendors plan to release large screen Chromebooks in the first half of 2015 with prices set to challenge Wintel based notebooks.

Google has laid out a reference framework for Chromebooks which means they will cost less than $300 per unit, according to a report from market intelligence firm Digitimes Research.

Dell and Acer will take the lead in cutting prices, with the former introducing a 15.6-inch Chromebook and Acer will introduce a model with the same size screen early next year.

Both are set to use Intel’s Broadwell-U microprocessor and the prices will mean stiff competition as Microsoft wants its hardware partners to produce notebooks costing less than $250.

However, Microsoft cannot hope to get hardware vendors to make Windows 8.1 with Bing machines for the same price point and with similar performance. Although Microsoft has cut licensing fees for Windows in an attempt to beat off competition from Chromebooks, the bill of materials to make notebooks precludes screens 15 inches and above.

China blocks Gmail

Photo of China from satellite - Wikimedia CommonsReports said that the Chinese government blocked access to Gmail accounts on Friday in a bid to further throttle Google.

A freedom of speech group, GreatFire.org, claimed the government was making an attempt to wipe out any Google presence in mainland China, according to a Reuters report.

While practically all of Google’s services have been throttled in mainland China, its email service Gmail was available to people until a block was imposed on Friday.

That block is still in place today. The Chinese government operates a regime which some have dubbed the Great Firewall of China which prevents citizens from seeing internet content that it doesn’t like.

China does not officially admit that it censors some internet services and maintains that it’s all in favour of foreign investment.

Apart from Google.

Driverless cars could kill off ambulance chasers

 ambulanceOne of the first casualties from the introduction of driverless cars could be the end of ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers.

Google, which just announced a “fully functional” prototype of its self-driving car, is looking for auto industry partners to bring the technology to market within the next five years.

According to legal blogger Eric Turkewitz, who is a a personal injury lawyer with the Turkewitz Law Firm in New York, the  matter of lawsuits regarding the cars will, he thinks will be reduced by the number of collisions due to human error.

“Each year about 30,000 people will die in the US from car crashes, and about two million are injured, and that is after considering a significant drop in fatalities from safer cars and seat belts over the prior decades.”

The cars will see the other cars/pedestrians and slow down or stop despite the daydreaming, being drunk, or having a snooze. The number of deaths will be reduced. Your insurance premiums will be theoretically reduced.

“And that meanest the need for my services as a personal injury attorney will be reduced,” he sadly said.

What might save his job is the fact that regulators and insurance companies are reluctant to embrace even incremental steps that allow hands-free driving.

Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who predicts hands-free driving systems will not be offered soon because of legal and insurance barriers.

Federal safety regulators say they still need to do more research on the potential safety and benefits of autonomous technology. Odd really, they didn’t do that when the car first came out.

Google sues Mississippi Attorney General

516EDMTJSNLGoogle has sued the attorney general of Mississippi accusing him of conspiring with the movie industry.

The search engine claims that Jim Hood had been improperly influenced by major Hollywood studios that are trying to crack down on the distribution of pirated movies on the Internet.

The lawsuit also questioned the authority of state law enforcement officials to regulate Internet service providers.

Hood and Google have been at war for a while now. Hood issued a 79-page subpoena in October, asking that the company turn over information about its search engine and sales of illegal drugs, pornography and other materials. He suggested that the company was knowingly profiting from such sales and demanded a response from Google by early January.

However during the Sony hack Emails and other records showed how the movie industry, through a nonprofit group it funded, had hired the former attorney general from Mississippi, whom Hood used to work for, to put pressure on Hood to attack Google.

The Sony emails also showed how the major movie studios, working through the Motion Picture Association of America, had created what they called Project Goliath, to press state attorneys general to question, subpoena and sue the company.

All this is a bit tricky for Hood to squeeze out of – although he did have a go. Hood said Google was using its deep pockets in an attempt to “stop the State of Mississippi for daring to ask some questions.” Nevertheless, he said he would call the company and try to work out a deal.

It also accused Hood of essentially acting as a pawn for the MPAA., arguing that. Hood “took these actions following a sustained lobbying effort from the Motion Picture Association of America.”

The MPPA, which was clearly caught out, went onto the attack with its usual bile about how Freedom of Speech is being used as a shield for unlawful activities and “the Internet is not a license to steal.”

However if the case gets to court, it could be a mess for the studios. You can hardly play the victim when you are buying politicians to bully those who disagree with your business model.

Google creates nightmare for business sites

 nightmareThe search engine Google is about to name and shame any site which does not use the HTTPS security protocol.

For years, it has been enough for site users to build their websites using HTTP with only those who run financial transactions needing the more secure protocol.

Now Google is proposing to warn people their data is at risk every time they visit websites that do not use the “HTTPS” system.

If implemented, the developers wrote, the change would mean that a warning would pop-up when people visited a site that used only HTTP to notify them that such a connection “provides no data security.”

The team said it was odd that browsers currently did nothing to warn people when their data was unprotected.

“The only situation in which web browsers are guaranteed not to warn users is precisely when there is no chance of security,” they wrote.

HTTPS uses well-established cryptographic systems to scramble data as it travels from a user’s computer to a website.

However, website operators might have a few problems when it comes to adopting the HTTPS system, but could see traffic plummet if they do not.

Currently only about 33 per cent of websites use HTTPS, according to statistics gathered by the Trustworthy Internet Movement which monitors the way sites use more secure browsing technologies.

Many large websites and services, including Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and GMail, already use HTTPS by default. In addition, since September Google has prioritised HTTPS sites in its search rankings.


Google faces antitrust hearing

330ogleA judge will hear a plea from Google today that she on dismiss an antitrust lawsuit in San Jose based on a class action against the internet giant.

Google will ask US District Judge Beth Freeman to dismiss a class action alleging that its Android operating system forces companies that use the OS in their devices to not use competing software from other companies like Microsoft.

Google will argue that people are free to use any apps on Android that they want to even though the plaintiffs insist it’s difficult or fiddly to do so.

If the class action is allowed to proceed, it’s likely that it will take some time and we’ll be treated to internal Google emails while executives from the company might be required to argue their position under oath.

Google is under increased scrutiny for its business activities.  A four year long investigation in Europe was given extra impetus last month when the European Parliament passed a resolution to break up the company because of its dominance. That caused the US administration to express worries about the case being politicised.

The European Commission has not yet given any indication of when its investigations will be completed, but has the power to levy large fines on the firm.

Robots make up half of web traffic

114More than half of traffic on the World Wide Web is mostly created by robots reporting on the activities of humans.

According to security outfit Incapsula in 2014, bots roaming the internet represented 56 percent of total web traffic. This is a decrease from 2013, when bots represented 61.5 percent of total internet traffic.

The majority of these bots are ‘good’ bots which include ‘crawlers’ that index web pages for search engines, social networking platforms, RSS feeds and translation services.

Incapsula is worried about an increasing number of ‘bad’ bots, which pose a threat to websites. The worst are ‘impersonator’ bots which are malevolent intruders engineered to circumvent common security measures. They have increased by 15 percent in the last two years.

Incapsul’s Igal Zeifman said that more than 90 percent of all cyber attacks that are executed by bots and  the worst case scenario really depends on the attacker’s intentions and the target.

“Bots can spam, scam, spy, execute denial of service attacks and hack – they can do whatever a human hacker ‘teaches’ them to do, only on a much (much) bigger scale – and this arguably delays the internet’s growth, both as a medium and as a place of business.”

The overall decrease in bot traffic is the result of a steady drop in good bot activity. RSS services are dying and Google’s RSS service, Google Reader, shutdown in July 2013.

Zeifman said click-fraud bots that undermine the advertisers’ profitability are also growing in number.

“I think that today most advertisers have accepted the fact that some of their online budget will be lost on bots. However, I also believe that, as these losses continue to grow, the need for bot filtering solutions will become more and more clear,” he said.



Google reveals top 2014 searches

330ogleSearch giant Google processes trillions of searches a year and now it’s released a list of the top searches in a number of different categories for 2014.

The top searches across all categories were Robin Williams, World Cup, Ebola, Malaysia Airlines, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Flappy Bird, Conchita Wurst, ISIS, Frozen and Sochi Olympics.

And top five people searched for in 2014 were Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, Julie Gayet, Tracy Morgan and Renee Zwellweger.

On the techie side, the most searched for terms were the iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Nexus 6, the Moto G, the Samsung Note 4, the LG G3, the Xbox One, the Apple watch, the Nokia X, and the iPad Air.

Apple scored number five in the top YouTube videos with the iPhone 6 Plus Bend test.

The top five deaths were Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Peaches Geldof, Shirley Temple and Maya Angelous.

Dutch prepare to take on Google

boyne2_1Search engine outfit Google could face fines of up to $18.6 million if it does not stop violating the privacy of internet users in the Netherlands, the Dutch data protection agency warned.

The DPA said that Google is breaching the country’s data protection act by using people’s private information such as browsing history and location data to target them with customised ads.

Google has until the end of February to change how it handles the data it collects from individual web users or will have to start writing cheques.

The company’s handling of user data under its new privacy guidelines, introduced in 2012, has also been under investigation in five other European countries – France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain.

Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch DPA appears to have had a gutsful of Google prevaricating.

“This has been ongoing since 2012 and we hope our patience will no longer be tested,” said.

Google needs to adequately inform users in advance and ask for permission before it uses data in this way, the DPA said.

It ordered the company to stop the violations or face incremental fines up to a maximum of 15 million euros. It said Google must start informing users of its actions and seeking their consent.

Google should be careful, the Dutch managed to humiliate the British Empire on more than one occasion and a tech Empire should be a doddle.


Spanish press backtracks on Google News

web-abc-madrid_sevillaAfter Google stopped printing news snippets on its News page from Spanish newspapers, the websites of those esteemed organs died.

Now it seems that the Spanish newspapers are asking the government to step in to force Google back.

Google shut its Google News service in Spain after the country bought in a new copyright law which would have forced Google to pay for the use of news snippets.

The Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE) issued a statement last night saying that Google News was “not just the closure of another service given its dominant market position”, recognising that Google’s decision: “will undoubtedly have a negative impact on citizens and Spanish businesses.

“Given the dominant position of Google (which in Spain controls almost all of the searches in the market and is an authentic gateway to the Internet), AEDE requires the intervention of Spanish and community authorities, and competition authorities, to effectively protect the rights of citizens and companies”.

In other words, Google has the newspaper industry by the short and curlies and if the Spanish government does not do something quick, there will not be an industry to moan about the search engine’s control.

The only workable option is to take the route followed in Germany: to give Google a special deal that allows it to carry on as before, but without having to pay — which would gut the new copyright law completely.

It would also mean that Google would not only be allowed to do what it likes, but continue to have total control of the world’s media. It seems the Spanish Newspapers have found out the hard way that Google already uses its algorithm to decide what is news and which magazines have a right to exist


Europe continues its anti-Google campaign

euroflagzThe European Commissioner in charge of antitrust matters is to meet up with the companies that complained about Google’s behaviour in Europe.

According to a report in Reuters, the new commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, wants to gather more information on the case.

To that end she is to meet companies with a beef – those include Microsoft, Hotmaps, Expedia, TripAdvisor and a gaggle of publishers.  They all believe that Google is abusing its dominance in the European sphere.

Late last month the European Parliament voted to break up Google – that vote however lacks teeth.

Vestager has teeth and has the ability to impose swingeing fines on Google if it’s shown it has antitrust tendencies.

Meanwhile, Reuters also reports that a German company is suing Google and Youtube for allegedly infrong a patent for video compression it own.

Driverless cars hit UK roads soon

googlecarYesterday’s Autumn Statement by chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne included information about driverless car tests in the UK.

According to Innovate UK – an arm of the government, £10 million will be plunged into formal trials that will start in January 2015.

The trials will last between 18 and 36 months and will take place in Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry, and Bristol.

Innovate UK said its aim is to make the UK the global hub for research and development of driverless vehicles and other technologies.

Nick Jones, a technologist at Innovate UK, said: “Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine. It’s vital that trials are carried out safely, that the public have confidence in the technology and we learn everything we can… so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.”

£10 million doesn’t seem quite enough to make the UK the hub for driverless car technology, given that Google and a number of large car manufacturers are plunging heavy investment into the concept.

Apple App store safety is a myth

tumblr_mc8zb8BqH31rttlrno1_400If you believe the Tame Apple Press you would think that the Microsoft and Google App stores were a terrible place full of Apps poisoned with malware, while the Apple App store is so rigorously checked, that all is completely safe.

But a study by InfoWorld has poured cold water on that particular myth claiming that the store has just as much malware inside.

Simon Phipps, who is an Open Saucy blogger, wrote that developers who are competing with Apple find that getting their apps into the store nearly impossible and those writing Apps for Apple find that the rules are constantly changing.

“But if you’re a scammer looking to make a fast buck, it appears that Apple process can be defeated and the scale of the problem became apparent in the the Apache OpenOffice community,” Phipps said.

For several months, the user support mailing list has been bothered with apparently random questions from people seeking support for an iPad app. Apache OpenOffice doesn’t even have an iOS version, so people wondered how there could be questions about supporting it.

It turned out that there was a $2.99 app in Apple’s iTunes Store and the developer who posted this app has used all sorts of tricks to populate the entry. He dubbed it Quickoffice Pro, which was the name of a genuine app bought by Google in 2012 and finally discontinued in 2014. Buyers would likely have an instinctive trust for the name, especially because the app uses the icon from the real Quickoffice product.

It simply displays a gray screen with the word Tap. When you tap the screen, the app exits. The developer has pointed angry customers at an innocent open source project whose ethos is to treat all user queries seriously and that doesn’t have the resources to mount a response for lack of volunteers.

It was posted under Lee Elman’s personal Apple developer account without permission or his  knowledge.

But how did this happen if Apple claims to meticulously screen all submissions to the store? InfoWorld found other examples. Again real accounts are being used for fake products.
Apple is not saying anything about the allegations.


Inbox to replace Gmail

330ogleGoogle plans to replace Gmail with Inbox, according to three engineers behind the project.

Lead designer Jason Cornwell said that in the short term Gmail is here to say, but in the longer term the new mail product will replace it.

“That’s why we’re launching it as a separate product. We care deeply about Gmail and Gmail users, but in the end as we add more features to Inbox and respond to user feedback we hope that everyone will want to use Inbox instead of Gmail. Ultimately, our users will decide,” Cornwell said.

It had been believed one email product possibly target both casual (Gmail) and power (Inbox) users. But Cornwell said that the two mail technologies were not aimed at different audiences. Both Gmail and Inbox are designed to scale from low volume to high volume users.

It appears then that Google’s decision will be based on what users want.

Cornwell added that Google could not add Inbox features into Gmail, mostly because the way people use the product has changed.

“With Inbox, we took a step back and did a lot of research into how most people are using email today. What we found was that email works as a todo list for many people, that phone usage is starting to eclipse desktop usage, and that many people have negative feelings towards email because it feels like so much work. We built Inbox as a separate product because we did not feel like we could solve those problems by just adding more features on to Gmail. We needed to start from scratch to build a tool that really helps you stay on top of your life,” he said.

Cross-browser support is also being tested internally across all of Google. The holdup is apparently because “we want to make sure that everything works perfectly before enabling it for all of our users.”

Google is also interested in attempting to integrate with other email systems such as Outlook.com and Yahoo. The Gmail app for Android recently gained this functionality.

The option to change the mobile app’s notification sound will become available “within the next few months.” Being able to download all attachments might also be coming.

The Undo Send feature and the ability to customize Snooze times are being worked on right now. Google is also developing a unified inbox option to handle multiple email addresses, adding signatures, building out Calendar integration further, and adding Drive integration.

Gangham Style nearly broke YouTube

0921-gangnam-style_full_600Gangnam Style, the South Korean pop star’s enduring video phenomenon from 2012, nearly broke YouTube by getting more than 2,147,483,647 views and creating a sort of Y2K fault.

The site’s original view counter was not designed to take that many hits and its developers could not believe that a video would be watched by numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (2,147,483,647 views).

Google, which owns YouTube, in a blog post this week. ” ‘Gangnam Style’ has been viewed so many times we had to upgrade!”

When programmers built YouTube nine years ago, they probably never imagined that a video on the young platform — back when several million views was considered a smash hit — might be watched more than 2.1 billion times.

As of late Wednesday morning, “Gangnam Style” had breached the barrier, showing more than 2,152,512,000 views.

Fortunately YouTube did not collapse with smoke pouring out of a server.  YouTube’s software engineers saw the problem coming and recently updated to a 64-bit view counter across the site, Google spokesman Matt McLernon said. The view counter can now go up to 9 quintillion views (9,223,372,036,854,775,808, to be exact), which should hold PSY for a while.

“Nothing actually broke,” McLernon said. “There was never anything that actually went wrong. It’s just people having fun with the language.”

PSY’s trademark horse-riding dance video, is almost 2½ years old and was uploaded in July 2012, “Gangnam Style” was the first clip to hit a billion views and is the most-watched video of all time. It was even the 5th most-played video on YouTube this past summer.

“People still play this video an absurd number of times,” he said.

To commemorate the occasion, YouTube has added a new wrinkle: If you hover your cursor over the “Gangnam Style” view counter, the numbers spin backwards and forwards.