Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jacob Kastrenakes reports on The Verge that as part a response to the NSA's wide-reaching surveillance programs, BitTorrent is unveiling a secure messaging service that will use public key encryption, forward secrecy, and a distributed hash table so that chats will be individually encrypted and won't be stored on some company's server. 'It's become increasingly clear that we need to devote hackathons, hours and resources to developing a messaging app that protects user privacy,' says Christian Averill, BitTorrent's director of communications. Because most current chat services rely on central servers to facilitate the exchange of messages, 'they're vulnerable: to hackers, to NSA dragnet surveillance sweeps.' BitTorrent chat aims to avoid those vulnerabilities through its encryption methods and decentralized infrastructure. Rather than checking in with one specific server, users of BitTorrent chat will collectively help each other figure out where to route messages to. In order to get started chatting, you'll just need to give someone else your public key — effectively your identifier. Exchanging public keys doesn't sound like the simplest way to begin a chat, but Averill says that BitTorrent hopes to make it easy enough for anyone interested. 'What we're going to do is to make sure there are options for how this is set up,' says Averill. 'This way it will appeal to the more privacy conscious consumer as well as the less technically inclined.' For now, it remains in a private testing phase that interested users can apply for access to. There's no word on when it'll be open to everyone, but with all of the recent surveillance revelations, it's easy to imagine that some people will be eager to get started."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chuong Nguyen reports that Apple is forcing developers to adopt iOS 7's visual UI for their apps, and has advised iOS developers that all apps submitted after February 1, 2014 must be optimized for iOS 7 and built using Xcode 5 ... 'It's likely that Apple is more anxious than ever for developers to update their apps to fit in visually and mechanically with iOS 7, as it's the largest change in the history of Apple's mobile software,' says Matthew Panzarino. 'iOS 7 introduced a much more complex physical language while stripping out many of the visual cues that developers had relied on to instruct users. For better or worse, this has created a new aesthetic that many un-updated apps did not reflect.' Most app developers have been building apps optimized towards iOS 7 since Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June 2013. Apple has been on a push over the past couple of years to encourage developers to support the latest editions of its OS faster than ever. To do this, it's made a habit of pointing out the adoption rates of new versions of iOS, which are extremely high. Nearly every event mentions iOS 7 adoption, which now tops 76% of all iOS users, and Apple publishes current statistics. In order to optimize apps for the new operating system, they must be built with the latest version of Xcode 5 which includes 64-bit support and access to new features like backgrounding APIs."
DeviceGuru writes "Roku's popular Linux-based media players have long been criticized for their glaring omission of YouTube video support. As of Dec. 17, that is no longer the case, provided you have the high-end Roku 3 player and live in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, or the U.K. Google's YouTube channel is available immediately for the Roku 3 in resolutions up to 1080p, and will be supported on additional models (though probably just Roku 2) next year, according the company. Previously, the only way to run YouTube over a Roku box was to use the third-party, subscription based PlayOn service, which requires a connected PC or Mac running the PlayOn app. The YouTube update also adds a Send to TV feature, letting you send videos to the Roku for display on the TV with a single click."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Tech publications and pundits alike have crowed about the benefits we're soon to collectively reap from healthcare analytics. In theory, sensors attached to our bodies (and appliances such as the fridge) will send a stream of health-related data — everything from calorie and footstep counts to blood pressure and sleep activity — to the cloud, which will analyze it for insight; doctors and other healthcare professionals will use that data to tailor treatments or advise changes in behavior and diet. But the sensors still leave a lot to be desired: 'smart bracelets' such as Nike's FuelBand and FitBit can prove poor judges of physical activity, and FitBit's associated app still requires you to manually input records of daily food intake (the FuelBand is also a poor judge of lower-body activity, such as running). FDA-approved ingestible sensors are still being researched, and it'd be hard to convince most people that swallowing one is in their best interests. Despite the hype about data's ability to improve peoples' health, we could be a long way from any sort of meaningful consumer technology that truly makes that happen."
cagraham writes "Google is currently testing a web-connected thermostat, similar to the popular Nest Thermostat, according to The Information. The device would display energy usage details, and allow user's to control it from a web app. This actually marks the second time Google has ventured into home energy, after their PowerMeter web app that was shut down in 2011. Web connected devices could allow Google access to a treasure trove of data on people's daily habits and routines."
An anonymous reader writes "Peter Eckersley at the EFF reports that the 'App Ops' privacy feature added to Android in 4.3 has been removed as of 4.4.2. The feature allowed users to easily manage the permission settings for installed apps. Thus, users could enjoy the features of whatever app they liked, while preventing the app from, for example, reporting location data. Eckersley writes, 'When asked for comment, Google told us that the feature had only ever been released by accident — that it was experimental, and that it could break some of the apps policed by it. We are suspicious of this explanation, and do not think that it in any way justifies removing the feature rather than improving it.1 The disappearance of App Ops is alarming news for Android users. The fact that they cannot turn off app permissions is a Stygian hole in the Android security model, and a billion people's data is being sucked through. Embarrassingly, it is also one that Apple managed to fix in iOS years ago.'"
walterbyrd writes "A team of engineers at Microsoft Research have developed a high-tech bra that's intended to monitor women's stress levels and dissuade them from emotional over-eating. The undergarment has sensors that track the user's heart rate, respiration, skin conductance and movement — all of which can indicate the type of stressful emotions that lead to over-eating, according to Microsoft researchers. The data is sent to a smartphone app, which then alerts users about their mood."
chicksdaddy writes "The Federal Trade Commission announced on Thursday that it settled with the maker of 'Brightest Flashlight Free,' a popular Android mobile application, over charges that the company used deceptive advertising to collect location and device information from Android owners. The FTC says the company failed to disclose wanton harvesting and sharing of customers' locations and mobile device identities with third parties. Brightest Flashlight Free, which allows Android owners to use their phone as a flashlight, is a top download from Google Play, the main Android marketplace. Statistics from the site indicate that it has been downloaded more than one million times with an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. The application, which is available for free, displays mobile advertisements on the devices it is installed on. However, the device also harvested a wide range of data from Android phones which was shared with advertisers, including what the FTC describes as 'precise geolocation along with persistent device identifiers.' As part of the settlement with the FTC, Goldenshores is ordered to change its advertisements and in-app disclosures to make explicit any collection of geolocation information, how it is or may be used, the reason for collecting location information and which third parties that data is shared with."
Arvydas Juskevicius (say that five times fast) is an independent software developer and hardware hacker based in London (which is where I got a chance to talk with him) who's decided to bring the useful LED signalling capabilities of many modern smartphones into the world of desktop or laptop computers. With his £10 BlinkStick kit (£15 pre-assembled), you get a programmable multi-color LED that's about the size of a flash memory key. Deceptively simple -- it's essentially one giant pixel, after all, which might not sound exciting when you have millions of them on a dense display surface. But that LED light is something you can use as a signal for alarms, or to tell you that you have a message from one app while another is at full-screen, or practically anything else that you can devise software to notice and react to. I get the sense that Juskevicius would prefer that people get the kit version, to help spur interest in actually soldering some hardware rather than just plugging it in. If you're allergic to paying in other than U.S. dollars, the BlinkStick is also available from Adafruit Industries. Watch the video below to see it in action.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the country's interior ministers will meet this week to discuss use of an app developed by local police in Saxony that has attracted the unofficial name of 'Nazi Shazam.' Just like Shazam works out what song you're hearing from just a few bars, the system picks up audio fingerprints of neo-Nazi rock so police can intervene when it's being played. The whole situation sounds pretty insane to an outsider, but apparently far-right music is a big problem in Germany, where it's considered a 'gateway drug' into the neo-Nazi scene. The Guardian reported that in 2004, far-right groups even tried to recruit young members by handing out CD compilations in schools. That sort of action is illegal in Germany, where neo-Nazi groups are outlawed and the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors is tasked with examining and indexing media — including films, games, music, and websites — that may be harmful to young people."
theodp writes "Over at WhiteHouse.gov, Bill Nye has issued a call for entries for the first-ever White House Student Film Festival, a video contest for K-12 students, whose finalists will have their short films shown at the White House. From the website: "The President has an assignment for you: Our schools are more high-tech than ever. There are laptops in nearly every classroom. You can take an online course on Japanese — and then video chat with a kid from Japan. You can learn about geometry through an app on your iPad. So, what does it all mean? We're looking for videos that highlight the power of technology in schools. Your film should address at least one of the following themes: 1. How you currently use technology in your classroom or school. 2. The role technology will play in education in the future."
An anonymous reader writes "Until now, it was particularly difficult to obtain reliable figures on the results of the Android operating system in China. Indeed, there is no 'centralized app store' and most smartphones sold in the country do not use Google services, including activation. In fact, it is very difficult to know the actual results. The search engine Baidu has corrected this by publishing a report on trends in the mobile internet for the 3rd quarter 2013. It appears that there would be now 270 million active users of the Google platform in the country (more than 20% of the total population). Growth would, however, decrease with a small 13% against 55% for the same period last year but up 10% compared to Q2 2013."
An anonymous reader writes "Google really wants Chrome apps to take off. Not only has the company added rich notifications, in-app payments, and an app launcher into its browser, but now it's developing ephemeral apps that launch by just clicking a link. There are two separate components here. Ephemeral apps (you can enable this under the chrome://flags/#enable-ephemeral-apps flag) let you try a Chrome app before installing it. Linkable ephemeral apps (under the chrome://flags/#enable-linkable-ephemeral-apps flag) meanwhile allow you to launch said apps from hyperlinks."
sfcrazy writes "[Wednesday] Google asked the CM team to voluntarily remove the [CyanogenMod installer] app from the store or they would be forced to remove it administratively. CM team chose to remove the app voluntarily. According to the CyanogenMod team, Google initially said that the app was in violation of Google's Play's developer terms. When the CM team reached out to the Play team, they found that 'though application itself is harmless, and not actually in violation of their Terms of Service, since it 'encourages users to void their warranty', it would not be allowed to remain in the store.'" You can still install manually, though.
First time accepted submitter gnosygnu writes "Want your own copy of English Wikipedia with images? Got 100 GB of disk space? Then open-source app XOWA may be of interest to you. The project released torrents yesterday for the 2013-11-04 version of English Wikipedia. There's 100 GB of sqlite databases containing 13.9 million pages, and 3.7 million images — readable from any Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X system. Image downloads for other wikis are building, but you can still use XOWA to read the text-only version for other wikis like Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote and 660 more. Next time you find yourself stranded without the internet, you can pull out your own copy of Wikipedia for use."
itwbennett writes "Adding to the growing sentiment that prizes ruin hackathons, Salesforce.com has come under fire from critics who say the hackathon the company held at its Dreamforce conference was judged unfairly. Not long after the $1 million prize was handed to Upshot for a mobile app that let users to create and edit Salesforce.com reports, other contestants raised allegations of unfairness. Among the complaints: That Upshot's CTO Thomas Kim had demoed a similar-sounding application a couple of weeks before Oct. 25 cutoff; that Kim is a former Salesforce.com employee (although that isn't in violation of the rules); and that their own entries weren't evaluated by judges at all. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is now promising a thorough investigation of the hackathon."
benrothke writes "Many of us have experimented with what it means to be disabled, by sitting in a wheelchair for a few minutes or putting a blindfold over our eyes. In Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward without Leaving People Behind, author Kel Smith details the innumerable obstacles disabled people have to deal with in their attempts to use computers and the Internet. The book observes that while 1 in 7 people in the world have some sort of disability, (including the fact that 1 in every 10 U.S. children has been diagnosed with ADHD), software and hardware product designers, content providers and the companies who support these teams often approach accessibility as an add-on, not as a core component. Adding accessibility functionality to support disabled people is often seen as a lowest common denominator feature. With the companies unaware of the universal benefit their solution could potentially bring to a wider audience. " Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
theodp writes "The same cast of billionaire characters — Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Eric Schmidt — is backing FWD.us, which is lobbying Congress for more visas to 'meet our workforce needs,' as well as Code.org, which aims to popularize Computer Science education in the U.S. to address a projected CS job shortfall. In laying out the two-pronged strategy for the Senate, Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith argued that providing more kids with a STEM education — particularly CS — was 'an issue of critical importance to our country.' But with its K-8 learn-to-code program which calls for teachers to receive 25% less money if fewer than 40% of their CS students are girls, Smith's Code.org is sending the message that training too many boys isn't an acceptable solution to the nation's CS crisis. 'When 10 or more students complete the course,' explains Code.org, "you will receive a $750 DonorsChoose.org gift code. If 40% or more of your participating students are female, you'll receive an additional $250, for a total gift of $1,000 in DonorsChoose.org funding!" The $1+ million Code.org-DonorsChoose CS education partnership appears to draw inspiration from a $5 million Google-DoonorsChoose STEM education partnership which includes nebulous conditions that disqualify schools from AP STEM funding if projected participation by female students in AP STEM programs is deemed insufficient. So, are Zuckerberg, Gates, Ballmer, and Schmidt walking-the-gender-diversity-talk at their own companies? Not according to the NY Times, which just reported that women still account for only about 25% of all employees at Code.org supporters Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. By the way, while not mentioning these specific programs, CNET reports that Slashdot owner Dice supports the STEM efforts of Code.org and Donors Choose."