Android

Malicious Apps Brought Ad-Clicking 'Judy' Malware To Millions Of Android Phones (fortune.com) 26

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The security firm Checkpoint on Thursday uncovered dozens of Android applications that infected users' devices with malicious ad-click software. In at least one case, an app bearing the malware was available through the Google Play app store for more than a year. While the actual extent of the malicious code's spread is unknown, Checkpoint says it may have reached as many as 36.5 million users, making it potentially the most widely-spread malware yet found on Google Play... The nefarious nature of the programs went unnoticed in large part, according to Checkpoint, because its malware payload was downloaded from a non-Google server after the programs were installed. The code would then use the infected phone to click on Google ads, generating fraudulent revenue for the attacker.
Transportation

New Details On Sergey Brin's Plan For The World's Largest Aircraft (theguardian.com) 107

An anonymous reader shares The Guardian's report on plans for a new aircraft that's two-and-a-half times the size of a 747. Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building a hi-tech airship in Silicon Valley destined to be the largest aircraft in the world, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project. "It's going to be massive on a grand scale," said one, adding that the airship is likely to be nearly 200 meters [656 feet] long... Brin wants the gargantuan airship, funded personally by the billionaire, to be able to deliver supplies and food on humanitarian missions to remote locations. However, it will also serve as a luxurious intercontinental "air yacht" for Brin's friends and family.

One source put the project's price tag at $100m to $150m. Igor Pasternak, an airship designer who was involved in the early stages of the project, believes airships could be as revolutionary for the trillion-dollar global cargo market as the internet was for communications. "Sergey is pretty innovative and forward looking," he said. "Trucks are only as good as your roads, trains can only go where you have rails, and planes need airports. Airships can deliver from point A to point Z without stopping anywhere in between."

The Guardian quips that while Brin's plans may stay secret for a while, "the good news is that the first flight test of such an enormous aircraft will be impossible to hide."
Chrome

Even For Businesses, Chrome Is The Top Browser (computerworld.com) 76

An anonymous reader shares Computerworld's interview with David Michael Smith of Gartner. "Most enterprises still have a 'standard' browser, and most of the time, that's something from Microsoft. These days it's IE11. But we've found that people actually use Chrome more than IE... It's the most-used browser in enterprise," he said... IE retains a sizable share -- Smith called it "a significant presence" -- largely because it's still required in most companies. "There are a lot of [enterprise] applications that only work in IE, because [those apps] use plug-ins," Smith said, ticking off examples like Adobe Flash, Java and Microsoft's own Silverlight. "Anything that requires an ActiveX control needs IE."

Many businesses have adopted the two-prong strategy that Gartner and others began recommending years ago: Keep a "legacy" browser to handle older sites, services and web apps, but offer another for everything else... Chrome, said Smith, is now the "overwhelming choice" as the modern enterprise browser... Smith wasn't optimistic that Edge would supplant Chrome, even when Windows 10 is widely deployed on corporate computers in the next few years. "Edge certainly will have opportunities" once Windows 10 is the enterprise-standard OS, "but I would say that Chrome has a lot of momentum, largely for the fact that it is so popular on the internet."

While a year ago Chrome and Microsoft's browsers both held 41% of the browser market share, now Chrome holds 59% to just 24% for both IE and Edge combined.
AI

Google Go-Playing A.I. Retires To Focus On Energy Conservation And Medicine (engadget.com) 115

After "narrowly" beating the world's top Go player, what's left for Google's AlphaGo AI? Engadget reports: Now that it has nothing left to prove, the AI is hanging up its boots and leaving the world of competitive Go behind. AlphaGo's developers from Google-owned DeepMind will now focus on creating advanced general algorithms to help scientists find elusive cures for diseases, conjure up a way to dramatically reduce energy consumption and invent new revolutionary materials. Before they leave Go behind completely, though, they plan to publish one more paper later this year to reveal how they tweaked the AI to prepare it for the matches against Ke Jie. They're also developing a tool that would show how AlphaGo would respond to a particular situation on the Go board with help from the world's number one player. While you'll have to wait a while for those two, you'll soon be able to watch 50 games AlphaGo played against itself when it was training
The first ten games that AlphaGo played against itself are already online. Shi Yue, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion, described them as "Like nothing I've ever seen before -- they're how I imagine games from far in the future." Google announced that this week's competition "has been the highest possible pinnacle for AlphaGo as a competitive program. For that reason, the Future of Go Summit is our final match event with AlphaGo... We hope that the story of AlphaGo is just the beginning."
Books

Creative Commons Staff Members Release New Free eBook (creativecommons.org) 28

ChristianVillum writes: Creative Commons staff-members Sarah Hinchliff Pearson and Paul Stacey have now published Made With Creative Commons, the awaited book they successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2015. "Made With Creative Commons is a book about sharing," explains the book's description. "It is about sharing textbooks, music, data, art, and more. People, organizations, and businesses all over the world are sharing their work using Creative Commons licenses because they want to encourage the public to reuse their works, to copy them, to modify them... But if they are giving their work away to the public for free, how do they make money?

"This is the question this book sets out to answer. There are 24 in-depth examples of different ways to sustain what you do when you share your work. And there are lessons, about how to make money but also about what sharing really looks like -- why we do it and what it can bring to the economy and the world. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share."

There's free versions in PDF, ePub, and MOBI formats for downloading from the Creative Commons site, and there's also an edit-able version on Google Docs. A small Danish non-profit publisher named Ctrl+Alt+Delete Books is also publishing print copies of the book under a Creative Commons license "to ensure easy sharing," and is making the book available on Amazon or through the publisher's own web site.
Microsoft

Security Analyst Concludes Windows 10 Enterprise 'Tracks Too Much' (xato.net) 251

A viral Twitter rant about Windows 10 Enterprise supposedly ignoring users' privacy settings has since been clarified. "I made mistakes on my original testing and therefore saw more connections than I should have," writes IT security analyst Mark Burnett, "including some to Google ads." But his qualified results -- quoted below -- are still critical of Microsoft:
  • You can cut back even more using the Windows Restricted Traffic Limited Functionality Baseline but break many things.
  • Settings can be set wrong if you aren't paying attention. Also, settings are not consistent and can be confusing to beginners.
  • You are opted-in to just about everything by default and have to set hundreds of settings to opt out, even on an Enterprise Windows system. Sometimes multiple settings for the same feature. Most Microsoft documentation discourages opting out and warns of a less optimal experience... But you can't completely opt-out. Windows still tracks too much.
  • Home and Professional users are much worse off due to limitations of some settings and lack of an IT staff... I'm not saying ditch Windows. I'm saying let's fix this. If we can't fix it, then we ditch Windows.

Power

New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World (bloomberg.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.
The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.
Earth

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To Change.org the World (fortune.com) 59

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in Change.org, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates. Change.org, Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, Change.org petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a Change.org petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a Change.org petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The Change.org petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from Change.org.
Google

Accused of Underpaying Women, Google Says It's Too Expensive To Get Wage Data (theguardian.com) 387

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women. Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators' ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women. Noting Google's nearly $28 billion annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the U.S., DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company's defense, saying, "Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water."
Bug

Two Different Studies Find Thousands of Bugs In Pacemakers, Insulin Pumps and Other Medical Devices 48

Two studies are warning of thousands of vulnerabilities found in pacemakers, insulin pumps and other medical devices. "One study solely on pacemakers found more than 8,000 known vulnerabilities in code inside the cardiac devices," reports BBC. "The other study of the broader device market found only 17% of manufacturers had taken steps to secure gadgets." From the report: The report on pacemakers looked at a range of implantable devices from four manufacturers as well as the "ecosystem" of other equipment used to monitor and manage them. Researcher Billy Rios and Dr Jonathan Butts from security company Whitescope said their study showed the "serious challenges" pacemaker manufacturers faced in trying to keep devices patched and free from bugs that attackers could exploit. They found that few of the manufacturers encrypted or otherwise protected data on a device or when it was being transferred to monitoring systems. Also, none was protected with the most basic login name and password systems or checked that devices they were connecting to were authentic. Often, wrote Mr Rios, the small size and low computing power of internal devices made it hard to apply security standards that helped keep other devices safe. In a longer paper, the pair said device makers had work to do more to "protect against potential system compromises that may have implications to patient care." The separate study that quizzed manufacturers, hospitals and health organizations about the equipment they used when treating patients found that 80% said devices were hard to secure. Bugs in code, lack of knowledge about how to write secure code and time pressures made many devices vulnerable to attack, suggested the study.
AI

Apple Is Working On a Dedicated Chip To Power AI On Devices (bloomberg.com) 50

According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks. "The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence -- such as facial recognition and speech recognition," reports Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter. From the report: Engineers at Apple are racing to catch their peers at Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. in the booming field of artificial intelligence. While Siri gave Apple an early advantage in voice-recognition, competitors have since been more aggressive in deploying AI across their product lines, including Amazon's Echo and Google's Home digital assistants. An AI-enabled processor would help Cupertino, California-based Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person's view of the world. Apple devices currently handle complex artificial intelligence processes with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance.
Mozilla

Former Mozilla CTO: 'Chrome Won' (andreasgal.com) 263

Responding to Firefox marketing head Eric Petitt's blog post from earlier this week, Andreas Gal, former chief technology officer of Mozilla (who spent seven years at the company) offers his insights. Citing latest market share figures, Gal says "it's safe to say that Chrome is eating the browser market, and everyone else except Safari is getting obliterated." From his blog post (edited and condensed for length): With a CEO transition about 3 years ago there was a major strategic shift at Mozilla to re-focus efforts on Firefox and thus the Desktop. Prior to 2014 Mozilla heavily invested in building a Mobile OS to compete with Android: Firefox OS. I started the Firefox OS project and brought it to scale. While we made quite a splash and sold several million devices, in the end we were a bit too late and we didn't manage to catch up with Android's explosive growth. Mozilla's strategic rationale for building Firefox OS was often misunderstood. Mozilla's founding mission was to build the Web by building a browser. [...] Browsers are a commodity product. They all pretty much look the same and feel the same. All browsers work pretty well, and being slightly faster or using slightly less memory is unlikely to sway users. If even Eric -- who heads Mozilla's marketing team -- uses Chrome every day as he mentioned in the first sentence, it's not surprising that almost 65% of desktop users are doing the same. [...] I don't think there will be a new browser war where Firefox or some other competitor re-captures market share from Chrome. It's like launching a new and improved horse in the year 2017. We all drive cars now. Some people still use horses, and there is value to horses, but technology has moved on when it comes to transportation. Does this mean Google owns the Web if they own Chrome? No. Absolutely not. Browsers are what the Web looked like in the first decades of the Internet. Mobile disrupted the Web, but the Web embraced mobile and at the heart of most apps beats a lot of JavaScript and HTTPS and REST these days. The future Web will look yet again completely different. Much will survive, and some parts of it will get disrupted.
Facebook

Facebook's Instant Articles Platform To Support Google AMP, Apple News (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: One of the problems publishers face today in making their content more readable on mobile devices is that there are multiple, competing formats available for this purpose. Facebook has Instant Articles, Google is spearheading the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, and the Apple News Format optimizes content for iOS devices. Facebook is today taking a crack at a solution to this problem by rolling out support for both AMP and soon Apple News as a part of its open source Instant Articles software development kit. The updated SDK will now include an extension that lets publishers build content that's publishable in all three formats, beginning with support for Google's AMP in addition to Facebook's own Instant Articles. In the weeks ahead it will also include support for publishing to Apple News, though the company didn't provide an exact launch date for when that feature would be added.
Android

T-Mobile's 'Digits' Program Revamps the Phone Number (arstechnica.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile has announced the launch of its "Digits" program, coming May 31. Digits is a revamp of how T-Mobile phone numbers work, virtualizing customer numbers so they can work across multiple devices. It sounds a lot like Google Voice -- rather than having a phone number tied to a single SIM card or a device, numbers are now account-based, and you can "log in" to your phone number on several devices. T-Mobile says the new phone number system will work "across virtually all connected devices," allowing multiple phones, tablets, and PCs to get texts and calls. This means T-Mobile needs apps across all those platforms, with the press release citing "native seamless integration" in Samsung Android phones, Android and iOS apps, and a browser interface for PCs. The new phone number system is free to all T-Mobile customers. Customers can also buy an extra phone number for $10 or by signing up to the $5-per-month "T-Mobile One Plus" package, which is a bundle of extra features like a mobile hotspot and in-flight Wi-Fi.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 188

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Businesses

Apple's Jonathan Ive Says Immigration Vital For UK Firms (bbc.com) 123

The UK must keep its doors open to top talent from around the world if its technology firms are to thrive, Apple's chief designer has told the BBC. An anonymous reader shares the article: Sir Jonathan Ive, who has just been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, also said that technology hubs like Silicon Valley had a "tremendous cultural diversity". Some technology firms fear they may lose access to talent after Brexit. "That general principle [on access] is terribly important for creating a context for multiple companies to grow and in a healthy way explore and develop new products and new product types," Sir Jonathan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Sir Jonathan said the UK had a "fabulous tradition of design education", but that it needed to do more to become a technology hub on a par with Silicon Valley in California, where the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are based. "I think Silicon Valley has infrastructures to support start-up companies... ranging from technological support through to funding," he said. "And there is the sense that failure isn't irreversible, so very often people will work on an idea, and there isn't the same sense of stigma when one idea and perhaps one company doesn't work out."
Android

And Now, a Brief Definition of the Web (theverge.com) 62

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge: Traditionally, we think of the web as a combination of a set of specific technologies paired with some core philosophical principles. The problem -- the reason this question even matters -- is that there are a lot of potential replacements for the parts of the web that fix what's broken with technology, while undermining the principles that ought to go with it. [...] A lot of tech companies are flailing around looking for ways to fix this problem. There are web apps that work in Chrome but not really all that well elsewhere. There are Instant Articles in Facebook and AMP pages on Google. There are Instant Android apps that stream to your phone over the internet instead of being installed, which go away when you're done with them just like a browser tab. Google claims to be trying to bring some of the open ethos of the web to smart speakers. Hell, go back to 2014 and you'll find Apple pundit John Gruber arguing we should consider apps and "anything transmitted using HTTP and HTTPS" as part of the web. [...] And now, a brief definition of the web: To count as being part of the web, your app or page must: 1. Be linkable, and 2. Allow any client to access it. That's it.
AI

Google AI AlphaGo Wins Again, Leaves Humans In the Dust (cnet.com) 134

Google's AlphaGo has defeated the world's best Go player in the second out of three games, scoring an overall win for the artificial intelligence algorithm in the fiendishly complex board game. CNET adds: The human gave it his all. "Incredible," wrote DeepMind founder and CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter while the match was underway. "According to AlphaGo evaluations Ke Jie is playing perfectly at the moment." The match took place over a year after AlphaGo bested Lee Sedol, one of the world's top Go players, in four out of five matches in March 2016. It also beat European champion Fan Hui 5-0 in October 2015. The match was being played in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. The government, however, isn't a big fan of letting its citizens know about the battle and has censored all the livestreams in the country.
China

China Censored Google's AlphaGo Match Against World's Best Go Player (theguardian.com) 93

DeepMind's board game-playing AI, AlphaGo, may well have won its first game against the Go world number one, Ke Jie, from China -- but most Chinese viewers could not watch the match live. From a report: The Chinese government had issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them against livestreaming Tuesday's game, according to China Digital Times, a site that regularly posts such notices in the name of transparency. "Regarding the go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a livestream," the notice read. "If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it." The ban did not just cover video footage: outlets were banned from covering the match live in any way, including text commentary, social media, or push notifications. It appears the government was concerned that 19-year-old Ke, who lost the first of three scheduled games by a razor-thin half-point margin, might have suffered a more damaging defeat that would hurt the national pride of a state which holds Go close to its heart.
Advertising

Google Following Your Offline Credit Card Spending To Tell Advertisers If Their Ads Work (consumerist.com) 146

One of the new tools Google has announced for its advertisers today promises to tie your offline credit card data together with all your online viewing to tell advertisers exactly what's working as they try to target you and your wallet. Consumerist reports: That return, for decades, was hard to measure in all but the most vaguely correlative of ways. Did people buy your product after seeing your TV ad? After seeing your billboard? On a whim after seeing neither? Who knows! But in the age of highly targeted, algorithmic advertising, the landscape is completely different. The apps on your phone know what you looked at and when, and can tie that in to what you see on other devices you're also logged into their services on (like your work computer). Meanwhile, you're leaving tracks out in the physical world -- not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do). Google also introduced some offline measurements to its online tool suite back in 2014, when it started using phone location data to try to match store visit location data to digital ad views. But a store doesn't make any money when you simply walk into it; you need to buy something. So Google's tracking that very granularly now, too. "In the coming months, we'll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads," Google explains to advertisers. That's very literally a collection of spending data matched to the people who spent it, matched in turn to people who saw ads.

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