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Google

Google Search Removes 'Mobile-Friendly' Label, Will Tackle Interstitials Next (venturebeat.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced two updates to mobile search results: an aesthetic one rolling out now and an algorithmic one coming next year. The former consists of removing the "mobile-friendly" label in search results and the latter will punish mobile sites that use interstitials. The goal is to "make finding content easier for users," though as always, the company didn't share exactly how much of an impact users and webmasters can expect. The report adds: "If your site is in the 15 percent group, here's a quick recap. A webpage is considered 'mobile friendly' if it meets the following criteria, as detected in real time by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash; Uses text that is readable without zooming; Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom; Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped. The company now wants to tackle 'intrusive interstitials' as they 'provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.' After January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible when coming from mobile search results 'may not rank as highly.' Interstitials that Google doesn't like include showing a popup that covers the main content (immediately or delayed), displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, and using a layout where the above-the-fold portion is similar to a standalone interstitial but the original content is inlined underneath. Interstitials that Google deems OK include legal obligations (cookie usage or for age verification), login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable, and banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible."
Android

Hey Google, Want To Fix Android Updates? Hit OEMs Where It Hurts (arstechnica.com) 163

Yesterday we talked about some of Nexus devices, including 2013's Nexus 5 not receiving an update, because it has been more than two years since the launch of the phone. But as you may know, this commitment to keeping the devices up to date is even worse when you look at what other Android OEMs are doing. ArsTechnica's Ron Amadeo has a solution: Google keeps missing the point when it comes to addressing Android's update situation. It keeps coming up with strategies to make updating "easier" for OEMs, but I don't think the problem is "ease of updating" -- it's creating any incentive for OEMs to update at all. Google seems to think that its partners will update phones because it's The Right Thing To Do by their customers and that handing out gold stars will send them scrambling to produce updates for their devices. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Google actually already tried the "shame" tactic and it didn't work. When Google-owned Motorola, Moto's update speed went through the roof. Motorola was achieving near-Nexus-like update speeds on many of its phones and was definitely putting other manufacturers to shame. But the increased update competition never really spurred other OEMs to start competing on update speeds. The bottom line is that Android partners only care about, well, the bottom line -- money. These companies already have your money, so updating a device that's already been sold is a needless expense. There's also a good argument to be made that updating a device hurts future sales. If your phone isn't updated, it will start to feel old, so you're more likely to buy a new phone sooner.
Microsoft

Microsoft Apps Will Be Pre-loaded On Lenovo and Motorola Android Devices (betanews.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: There was a time when Microsoft was seen as the enemy of Linux and Apple communities. Understandably, at the time, the company only wanted Windows to succeed. Nowadays, however, the operating system is sort of inconsequential. Microsoft seems happy to have its software succeed on 'competitor' platforms such as iOS, Android, macOS, Ubuntu and more. Today, Microsoft announces that it has partnered with Lenovo on a new mobile initiative. The Windows-maker's productivity apps will be pre-loaded on Lenovo and Motorola-branded devices running Google's Linux-based Android operating system.As of earlier this year, Microsoft had over 74 Android OEM partners. As for submitter's take on this, it's pretty simple. Microsoft is going where users are. If they are not going to purchase Windows Phones, Microsoft will go to Android and iOS.
Operating Systems

Linux Turns 25, Is Bigger and More Professional Than Ever (arstechnica.com) 277

The Linux operating system kernel is 25 years old this month, ArsTechnica writes. It was August 25, 1991 when Linus Torvalds posted his famous message announcing the project, claiming that Linux was "just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu." From the article: But now, Linux is far bigger and more professional than Torvalds could have imagined. Linux powers huge portions of the Internet's infrastructure, corporate data centers, websites, stock exchanges, the world's most widely used smartphone operating system, and nearly all of the world's fastest supercomputers. The successes easily outweigh Linux's failure to unseat Microsoft and Apple on PCs, but Linux has still managed to get on tens of millions of desktops and laptops and Linux software even runs on Windows.Do you use any Linux-based operating system? Share your experience with it. What changes would you want to see in it in the next five years?
Android

Google Begins Rolling Out Android 7.0 Nougat (venturebeat.com) 157

An anonymous reader writes: Google today started rolling out Android 7.0 Nougat to existing Nexus devices via an over-the-air software update. This is a gradual rollout: The Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C, and General Mobile 4G (Android One) will all be updated, but " it may take several weeks" before everyone gets the latest and greatest, a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat.The Nexus 5 (2013), which packs in a Snapdragon 800 SoC coupled with 2GB of RAM and 5-inch full-HD display, won't be receiving Android Nougat update -- despite having all the hardware capabilities required for a phone to receive Google's latest OS update. The truth of the matter is if Google wanted to update the Nexus 5 with the latest Android software, it could have. It just chose not to. It's very likely that same will be the case for the Nexus 6, a phone that has 3GB of RAM, and Snapdragon 805 SoC, next year when the company releases Android O update.
Google

Fake Google Salesmen Are Actually SEO Telemarketers (vortex.com) 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: It seems like almost every day I get junk solicitation phone calls "from Google." They call about my Google business local listings, about my not being on the first page of Google search results, and so on -- and they want me to pay them to "fix" this stuff. When I look up the Caller ID numbers they use, I often finds pages of people claiming they're Google phone numbers. Sometimes the Caller ID display actually says Google!

Is Google really doing this? Negative. NONE of these calls are from Google. Zero. Zilch. Nada. These callers are inevitably "SEO"; (Search Engine Optimization) scammers of one sort or another. They make millions of "cold calls" to businesses using public phone listings (from the Web or other sources) or using phone number lists purchased from brokers. If you ever actually deal with them, you'll find that their services typically range from useless to dangerous.

Crime

Want To Hunt Bank Robbers? There's an App For That, Says The FBI (networkworld.com) 67

Long-time Slashdot reader coondoggie quotes an article from Network World: The FBI today said it released a new application making it easier for the public -- as well as financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and others -- to view photos and information about bank robberies in different geographic areas of the country.
The FBI's new "Bank Robbers" application runs on both Android and iOS, according to the article, "and lets users sort bank robberies by the date they occurred, the category they fall under (i.e., armed serial bank robber), the FBI field office working the case, or the state where the robbery occurred." The app ties into BankRobbers.fbi.gov, which overlays FBI information about bank robberies onto Google Maps.

The app's users "can also select push notifications to be informed when a bank robbery has taken place near their location," according to the FBI's site, which adds innocently that "If the location services on your device are enabled, you can view a map that shows the relevant bank robberies that took place in your geographic area..."
Oracle

Oracle Is Funding a New Anti-Google Group (fortune.com) 153

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Fortune: Oracle says it is funding a new non-profit called "Campaign for Accountability," which consists of a campaign called "The Google Transparency Project" that claims to expose criminal behavior carried out by Google. "Oracle is absolutely a contributor (one of many) to the Transparency Project. This is important information for the public to know. It is 100 percent public records and accurate," said Ken Glueck, Senior Vice President of Oracle. Fortune reports: "Oracle's hidden hand is not a huge surprise since the company has a history of sneaky PR tactics, and is still embroiled in a bitter intellectual property lawsuit with Google." One would think Microsoft may be another contributor, but the company said it is not. Daniel Stevens, the deputy director of the CfA, declined to name the group's other donors, or to explain why it does not disclose its funders. Why does this matter? "When wealthy companies or individuals pose as a grass-roots group like the so-called 'campaign for accountability' project, [it] can confuse news and public relations, and foster public cynicism," writes Jeff John Roberts via Fortune.
Chrome

Google Will Kill Chrome Apps For Windows, Mac, and Linux In Early 2018 (venturebeat.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced plans to kill off Chrome apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux in early 2018. Chrome extensions and themes will not be affected, while Chrome apps will continue to live on in Chrome OS. Here's the deprecation timeline:

Late 2016: Newly published Chrome apps will not be available to Windows, Mac, and Linux users (when developers submit apps to the Chrome Web Store, they will only show up for Chrome OS). Existing Chrome apps will remain available as they are today and developers can continue to update them.
Second half of 2017: The Chrome Web Store will no longer show Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Early 2018: Chrome apps will not load on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
There appears to be two main reasons why Google is killing Chrome apps off now. First, as Google explains in a blog post: "For a while there were certain experiences the web couldn't provide, such as working offline, sending notifications, and connecting to hardware. We launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge this gap. Since then, we've worked with the web standards community to enable an increasing number of these use cases on the web. Developers can use powerful new APIs such as service worker and web push to build robust Progressive Web Apps that work across multiple browsers." Secondly, Chrome apps aren't very popular: "Today, approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux will therefore be removing support for packaged and hosted apps over the next two years."
Chrome

Google Restores Backspace Functionality To Chrome With an Add-on (betanews.com) 136

In May, Google upset many users when it announced it was going to stop the backspace button from also functioning as the back button. If you're among the ones who felt let down by company's decision, there is something you can do about it now. Alan Buckingham, writing for BetaNews: If you don't want to go to the effort of moving your mouse pointer to the back arrow at the left of the address bar to go back to the previous site, you can now install the new Go Back With Backspace add-on. The official description reads, "Go back with the backspace button! This extension re-enables the backspace key as a back navigation button -- except if you're writing text". The reason given for all of this, according to Google, is "many people lost their progress while working online by accidentally pressing backspace and leaving a page -- so we removed the feature from Chrome, and created this extension for those who prefer the old behavior".
Microsoft

Microsoft Wants To Pay You To Use Its Windows 10 Browser Edge (theguardian.com) 256

An anonymous reader shares a report by The Guardian: Microsoft has a new browser. It launched with Windows 10 and it's called Edge. The company says it's faster, more battery efficient and all-round better than Chrome or Firefox. You can even draw on websites with a stylus. Trouble is, not very many people are using it. So now Microsoft's trying to bribe you to switch. The newly rebranded Microsoft Rewards -- formerly Bing Rewards, which paid people for using Bing as their search engine (another product Microsoft says is better than a Google product but that very few people actually use) -- will now pay you for using Edge, shopping at the Microsoft store, or using Bing. Users of Edge who sign up to Microsoft Rewards, which is currently US-only, are then awarded points simply for using the browser. Microsoft actively monitors whether you're using Edge for up to 30 hours a month. It tracks mouse movements and other signs that you're not trying to game the system, and you must also have Bing set as your default search engine. Points can then be traded in for vouchers or credit for places such as Starbucks, Skype, Amazon and ad-free Outlook.com -- remember, if you're not paying for something, you are the product.
AT&T

AT&T, Apple, Google To Work On 'Robocall' Crackdown (reuters.com) 110

Last month the FCC had pressed major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to develop technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge. It had demanded the concerned companies to come up with a "concrete, actionable" plan within 30 days. Well, the companies have complied. On Friday, 30 major technology companies announced they are joining the U.S. government to crack down on automated, pre-recorded telephone calls that regulators have labeled as "scourge." Reuters adds: AT&T, Alphabet, Apple, Verizon Communications and Comcast are among the members of the "Robocall Strike Force," which will work with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The strike force will report to the commission by Oct. 19 on "concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions," said AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, who is chairing the group. The group hopes to put in place Caller ID verification standards that would help block calls from spoofed phone numbers and to consider a "Do Not Originate" list that would block spoofers from impersonating specific phone numbers from governments, banks or others.
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Android

iOS and Android Combined For Record 99% of Smartphone Sales Last Quarter (macrumors.com) 189

An anonymous reader writes: The research firm Gartner has crunched some numbers and found that Android and iOS accounted for a record 99.1% worldwide market share in the second calendar quarter of 2016, which is compared to 96.8% in the year-ago period. What some may view as even more shocking is that Android accounted for 86.2% of the market share in the second quarter, up from 82.2% a year ago. Meanwhile, iOS lost some ground as it dropped to 12.9% market share from 14.6% in the year-ago period. It's no surprise that Windows and BlackBerry have been losing market share. They dropped to 0.6% and 0.1% market share worldwide respectively. Just six years ago, BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems were industry leaders. Now, they're industry losers. Which third-party operating system has what it takes to take on the establishment?
Transportation

Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month (bloomberg.com) 128

Ride-hailing app Uber will introduce self-driving cars in Pittsburgh as soon as this month, Bloomberg reports citing many officials and engineers at the company. The move is the first part of a pilot program to explore the future of the technology, the report added. The company plans to test 100 Volvo XC90s outfitted to drive themselves. Still, the cars will be accompanied by two humans: an engineer who can take control of the vehicle when needed and a co-pilot who takes note. Bloomberg reports: The Volvo deal isn't exclusive; Uber plans to partner with other automakers as it races to recruit more engineers. In July the company reached an agreement to buy Otto, a 91-employee driverless truck startup that was founded earlier this year and includes engineers from a number of high-profile tech companies attempting to bring driverless cars to market, including Google, Apple, and Tesla. Uber declined to disclose the terms of the arrangement, but a person familiar with the deal says that if targets are met, it would be worth 1percent of Uber's most recent valuation.
Businesses

WSJ: Facebook's Point System Fails To Close Diversity Gap 414

theodp writes: Gizmodo and others are picking up on a Wall Street Journal story (Warning: may be paywalled) which reported that Facebook's failure to move the needle on diversity is all the more surprising because the social network awarded Facebook recruiters double points for a "diversity hire" -- a female, Black, or Hispanic engineer -- compared to the hire of a White or Asian male. Facebook declined to comment on whether this points-based system is still in effect. The WSJ also notes that Intel has paid its employees double referral bonuses for women, minorities, and veterans. The reward schemes evoke memories of gender-based (and later race-based) incentives offered for K-12 coding and STEM programs run by tech-backed Code.org (to which Facebook just pledged $15 million) and Google, which offered lower funding or no funding at all to teachers if participation by female students was deemed unacceptable to the sponsoring organizations. Facebook's efforts also seem consistent with the tech-backed Every Student Succeeds Act, which calls for increasing CS and STEM access to address a tech-declared national crisis, but only "for students through grade 12 who are members of groups underrepresented in such subject fields, such as female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students." Hey, sometimes "every" doesn't mean "every!"
Security

People Ignore Software Security Warnings Up To 90% of the Time, Says Study (phys.org) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: A new study from BYU, in collaboration with Google Chrome engineers, finds the status quo of warning messages appearing haphazardly -- while people are typing, watching a video, uploading files, etc. -- results in up to 90 percent of users disregarding them. Researchers found these times are less effective because of "dual task interference," a neural limitation where even simple tasks can't be simultaneously performed without significant performance loss. Or, in human terms, multitasking. For example, 74 percent of people in the study ignored security messages that popped up while they were on the way to close a web page window. Another 79 percent ignored the messages if they were watching a video. And a whopping 87 percent disregarded the messages while they were transferring information, in this case, a confirmation code. For example, Jenkins, Vance and BYU colleagues Bonnie Anderson and Brock Kirwan found that people pay the most attention to security messages when they pop up in lower dual task times such as: after watching a video, waiting for a page to load, or after interacting with a website. For part of the study, researchers had participants complete computer tasks while an fMRI scanner measured their brain activity. The experiment showed neural activity was substantially reduced when security messages interrupted a task, as compared to when a user responded to the security message itself. The BYU researchers used the functional MRI data as they collaborated with a team of Google Chrome security engineers to identify better times to display security messages during the browsing experience.
Google

Oracle Says Trial Wasn't Fair, It Should Have Known About Google Play For Chrome (arstechnica.com) 181

Two and a half months after a federal jury concluded that Google's Android operating system does not infringe Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use," Oracle's attorney says her client missed a crucial detail in the trial, adding that this detail could change everything. ArsTechnica reports: Oracle lawyers argued in federal court today that their copyright trial loss against Google should be thrown out because they were denied key evidence in discovery. Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said that the launch of Google Play on Chrome OS, which happened in the middle of the trial, showed that Google was trying to break into the market for Java SE on desktops. In her view, that move dramatically changes the amount of market harm that Oracle experienced, and the evidence should have been shared with the jury. "This is a game-changer," Hurst told U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who oversaw the trial. "The whole foundation for their case is gone. [Android] isn't 'transformative'; it's on desktops and laptops." Google argued that its use of Java APIs was "fair use" for several reasons, including the fact that Android, which was built for smartphones, didn't compete with Java SE, which is used on desktops and laptops. During the post-trial hearing today, Hurst argued that it's clear that Google intends to use Android smartphones as a "leading wedge" and has plans to "suck in the entire Java SE market. [...] Android is doing this using Java code," said Hurst. "That's outrageous, under copyright law. This verdict is tainted by the jury's inability to hear this evidence. Viewing the smartphone in isolation is a Google-gerrymandered story."In the meanwhile, Google attorney said Oracle was aware of Google's intentions of porting Android to laptops and desktops, and that if Oracle wanted to use this piece of information, it could have.
Android

Verizon Offered To Install Marketers' Apps Directly On Subscribers' Phones (adage.com) 198

According to a report on AdAge, Verizon Wireless is trying to add more bloatware to Android phones by installing apps from other companies in exchange for payment. From the report: The wireless carrier has offered to install big brands' apps on its subscribers' home screens, potentially delivering millions of downloads, according to agency executives who have considered making such deals for their clients. But that reach would come at a cost: Verizon was seeking between $1 and $2 for each device affected, executives said. Verizon started courting advertisers with app installations late last year, pitching retail and finance brands among others, agency executives said. It has only offered the installations on Android phones, because Google's software is open for carriers to customize. Apple controls its platform more tightly. The proposed deals with brands ensure that their apps download to only new devices when consumers activate the phones and their software for the first time.
Google

Malware That Fakes Bank Login Screens Found In Google Ads (fastcompany.com) 120

tedlistens quotes a report from Fast Company: For years, security firms have warned of keystroke logging malware that surreptitiously steals usernames and passwords on desktop and laptop computers. In the past year, a similar threat has begun to emerge on mobile devices: So-called overlay malware that impersonates login pages from popular apps and websites as users launch the apps, enticing them to enter their credentials to banking, social networking, and other services, which are then sent on to attackers. Such malware has even found its way onto Google's AdSense network, according to a report on Monday from Kaspersky Lab. The weapon would automatically download when users visited certain Russian news sites, without requiring users to click on the malicious advertisements. It then prompts users for administrative rights, which makes it harder for antivirus software or the user to remove it, and proceeds to steal credentials through fake login screens, and by intercepting, deleting, and sending text messages. The Kaspersky researchers call it "a gratuitous act of violence against Android users." "By simply viewing their favorite news sites over their morning coffee users can end up downloading last-browser-update.apk, a banking Trojan detected by Kaspersky Lab solutions as Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q," according to the company. "There you are, minding your own business, reading the news and BOOM! -- no additional clicks or following links required." The good news is that the issue has since been resolved, according to a Google spokeswoman. Fast Company provides more details about these types of attacks and how to stay safe in its report.

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