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Google Fiber Pauses Operations, CEO Leaves, and About 9 Percent of Staff Is Being Let Go ( 159

The future of Google Fiber has been shaky ever since Google's parent company, Alphabet, was founded. The original plan was to expand Fiber's blazing fast internet service to more than 20 cities, with the goal of eventually delivering nationwide gigabit service. However, Alphabet hit the reset button on those plans Tuesday. Not only is Google Fiber CEO Craig Barratt leaving, but about 9 percent of staff is being let go. That translates to about 130 job losses, since the business has about 1,500 employees. Bloomberg reports: Barratt wrote in a blog post that the company is pulling back fiber-to-the-home service from eight different cities where it had announced plans. Those include major metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Moving into big cities was a contentious point inside Google Fiber, according to one former executive. Leaders like Barratt and Dennis Kish, who runs Google Fiber day-to-day, pushed for the big expansion. Others pushed back because of the prohibitive cost of digging up streets to lay fiber-optic cables across some of America's busiest cities. "I suspect the sheer economics of broad scale access deployments finally became too much for them," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. "Ultimately, most of the reasons Google got into this in the first place have either been achieved or been demonstrated to be unrealistic."

Apple Has Created 'Detailed Mockups' of iMessage For Android ( 137

One of the biggest features on iOS that isn't available on Android is iMessage, an instant messaging service that allows users to send information over Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, and other forms of internet access to other iOS or OS X users. Earlier this year, there were been rumors swirling around the possibility of the service coming to Android due to Apple's increased focus on services, "which means opening up certain avenues beyond its own iOS and OS X platforms." Today, Daring Fireball's John Gruber has added fuel to the fire by mentioning that he's "heard from little birdies" that a handful of "detailed mockups" of iMessage for Android have been shared around Apple. MacRumors reports: The user interface of the Android app is said to have gone through numerous designs, from one that looks identical to the version on iOS, to another that has a "pure Material Design," using Google's design language it developed a few years ago. Gruber still thinks iMessage on Android "might happen sooner or later," mainly because of iMessage's new monetized Messages App Store, which could net Apple increased income in its already profitable services category if it translated the app to Android. Apple undoubtedly created mockups for all types of products and services, the vast majority of which never make it to release, and it's unclear exactly how far along the iMessage for Android preliminary designs were at the time of their circulation through Apple, or when exactly that occurred. Still, Gruber notes that while an Android version of iMessage "may never see the light of day," even the existence of such mockups "strongly suggests that there's no 'of course not' to it."

Benchmark Battle October 2016: Chrome Vs. Firefox Vs. Edge ( 120

Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: It's been more than a year since our last browser benchmark battle, and the competition remains fierce. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge have all gained a variety of new features and improvements over the past year. It's time to see if any of them have managed to pull ahead of the pack. It appears that Edge has made the biggest gains since last year. That said, browser performance is improving at a very rapid pace, and it shouldn't be your only consideration when picking your preferred app for consuming Internet content. You can click on individual tests below to see the details:

SunSpider: Edge wins!
Octane: Edge wins!
Kraken: Chrome wins!
JetStream: Edge wins!
Oort Online: Firefox wins!
Peacekeeper: Firefox wins!
WebXPRT: Edge wins!
HTML5Test: Chrome wins!

You can also read all about the setup used for the benchmark tests here. VentureBeat used a custom desktop PC, featuring an Intel Core i5 4440 processor (6M Cache, 3.10 GHz), 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, a 500GB SATA hard drive (7200 RPM), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card, and a 24-inch widescreen LED monitor (1920 x 1080).

Warner Bros Claims Agency Ran Its Own Pirate Movie Site ( 23

Warner Bros Entertainment has sued talent agency Innovative Artists, claiming that the agency ran its own pirate site when it ripped DVD screeners and streamed them to associates via Google servers. TorrentFreak adds: In a lawsuit filed in a California federal court, Warner accuses the agency of effectively setting up its own pirate site, stocked with rips of DVD screeners that should have been kept secure. "Beginning in late 2015, Innovative Artists set up and operated an illegal digital distribution platform that copied movies and then distributed copies and streamed public performances of those movies to numerous people inside and outside of the agency," the complaint reads. "Innovative Artists stocked its platform with copies of Plaintiff's works, including copies that Innovative Artists made by ripping awards consideration 'screener' DVDs that Plaintiff sent to the agency to deliver to one of its clients." Given its position in the industry, Innovative Artists should have known better than to upload content, Warner's lawyers write.

Rowhammer Attack Can Now Root Android Devices ( 98

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: Researchers have discovered a method to use the Rowhammer RAM attack for rooting Android devices. For their research paper, called Drammer: Deterministic Rowhammer Attacks on Mobile Platforms, researchers tested and found multiple smartphone models to be vulnerable to their attack. The list includes LG Nexus (4, 5, 5X), LG G4, Motorola Moto G (2013 and 2014), One Plus One, HTC Desire 510, Lenovo K3 Note, Xiaomi Mi 4i, and Samsung Galaxy (S4, S5, and S6) devices. Researchers estimate that millions of Android users might be vulnerable. The research team says the Drammer attack has far more wide-reaching implications than just Android, being able to exploit any device running on ARM chips. In the past, researchers have tested the Rowhammer attack against DDR3 and DDR4 memory cards, weaponized it via JavaScript, took over PCs via Microsoft Edge, and hijacked Linux virtual machines. There's an app to test if your phone is vulnerable to this attack. "Rowhammer is an unintended side effect in dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) that causes memory cells to leak their charges and interact electrically between themselves, possibly altering the contents of nearby memory rows that were not addressed in the original memory access," according to Wikipedia. "This circumvention of the isolation between DRAM memory cells results from the high cell density in modern DRAM, and can be triggered by specially crafted memory access patterns that rapidly activate the same memory rows numerous times."

Twitter Plans To Cut About 300 Jobs As Soon As This Week: Bloomberg ( 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Twitter Inc. is planning widespread job cuts, to be announced as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter. The company may cut about 8 percent of the workforce, or about 300 people, the same percentage it did last year when co-founder Jack Dorsey took over as chief executive officer, the people said. Planning for the cuts is still fluid and the number could change, they added. An announcement about the job reductions may come before Twitter releases third-quarter earnings on Thursday, one of the people said. Twitter, which loses money, is trying to control spending as sales growth slows. The company recently hired bankers to explore a sale, but the companies that had expressed interest in bidding -- Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and Alphabet Inc. -- later backed out from the process. Twitter's losses and 40 percent fall in its share price the past 12 months have made it more difficult for the company to pay its engineers with stock. That has made it harder for Twitter to compete for talent with giant rivals like Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Facebook Inc. Reducing employee numbers would relieve some of this pressure.

Internet is Becoming Unreadable Because of a Trend Towards Lighter, Thinner Fonts ( 320

An anonymous reader writes: The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. Award winning blogger Kevin Marks, founder of Microformats and former vice president of web services at BT, decided to look into the trend after becoming concerned that his eyesight was failing because he was increasingly struggling to read on screen text. He found a 'widespread movement' to reduce the contrast between the words and the background, with tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter all altering their typography. True black on white text has a contrast ratio of 21:1 -- the maximum which can be achieved. Most technology companies agree that it is good practice for type to be a minimum of 7:1 so that the visually-impaired can still see text. But Mr Marks, found that even Apple's own typography guidelines, which recommended 7:1 are written in a contrast ratio of 5.5:1.

Who Should We Blame For Friday's DDOS Attack? ( 183

"Wondering which IoT device types are part of the Mirai botnet causing trouble today? Brian Krebs has the list," tweeted Trend Micro's Eric Skinner Friday, sharing an early October link which identifies Panasonic, Samsung and Xerox printers, and lesser known makers of routers and cameras. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Part of the responsibility should also lie with lawmakers and regulators, who have failed to create a safety system to account for the Internet-of-Things era we are now living in. Finally, it's time for consumers to acknowledge they have a role in the attack too. By failing to secure the internet-connected devices, they are endangering not just themselves but the rest of the Internet as well.
If you're worried, Motherboard is pointing people to an online scanning tool from BullGuard (a U.K. anti-virus firm) which checks whether devices on your home network are listed in the Shodan search engine for unsecured IoT devices. But earlier this month, Brian Krebs pointed out the situation is exacerbated by the failure of many ISPs to implement the BCP38 security standard to filter spoofed traffic, "allowing systems on their networks to be leveraged in large-scale DDoS attacks..."

Photographer Glimpses Larry Page's Flying Car Hovering In California (Maybe) ( 88

From Hollister, California -- population 40,000 -- comes a good update from the Mercury News on Larry Page's efforts to fund a flying car: Even from a few hundred yards away, the aircraft made a noise strikingly different from the roar of a typical plane. "It sounded like an electric motor running, just a high-pitched whine," said Steve Eggleston, assistant manager at an airplane-parts company with offices bordering the Hollister Municipal Airport tarmac. But it wasn't only the sound that caught the attention of Eggleston and his co-workers at DK Turbines. It was what the aircraft was doing. "What the heck's that?" saleswoman Brittany Rodriguez thought to herself. It's just hovering."

That, apparently, was a flying car, or perhaps a prototype of another sort of aircraft under development by a mysterious startup called of two reportedly funded by Google co-founder Larry Page to develop revolutionary forms of transportation... A Zee.Aero spokeswoman said the firm is "currently not discussing (its) plans publicly." However, a Zee.Aero patent issued in 2013 describes in some detail an aircraft capable of the hovering seen by people working at the airport. And the drawings showcase a vision of the future in which flying cars park in lots just like their terrestrial, less-evolved cousins.

Page has invested $100 million in Zee.Aero, which appears to have hired more than 100 aerospace engineers. But the article reports that apparently, in the small town where it's headquartered, "the first rule about Zee.Aero is you don't talk about Zee.Aero."

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban On Personally Identifiable Web Tracking ( 154

Fudge Factor 3000 writes: Google has quietly changed its privacy policy to allow it to associate web tracking, which is supposed to remain anonymous, with personally identifiable user data. This completely reneges its promise to keep a wall between ad tracking and personally identifiable user data, further eroding one's anonymity on the internet. Google's priorities are clear. All they care about is monetizing user information to rake in the big dollars from ad revenue. Think twice before you purchase the premium priced Google Pixel. Google is getting added value from you as its product without giving you part of the revenue it is generating through tracking through lower prices. The crossed-out section in its privacy policy, which discusses the separation of information as mentioned above, has been followed with this statement: "Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google's services and the ads delivered by Google." ProPublica reports: "The change is enabled by default for new Google accounts. Existing users were prompted to opt-in to the change this summer. The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct. The move is a sea change for Google and a further blow to the online ad industry's longstanding contention that web tracking is mostly anonymous. In recent years, Facebook, offline data brokers and others have increasingly sought to combine their troves of web tracking data with people's real names. But until this summer, Google held the line." You can choose to opt in or out of the personalized ads here.

'Adding a Phone Number To Your Google Account Can Make it Less Secure' ( 105

You may think that adding a backup phone number to your account will make it prone to hack, but that is not always the case. Vijay Pandurangan, EIR at Benchmark (and formerly with Eng Site Lead at Twitter) argues that your phone number is likely the weakest link for many attackers (at least when they are trying to hack your Google account). He has shared the story of his friend who had his Google account compromised. The friend in this case, let's call him Bob, had a very strong password, a completely independent recovery email, hard-to-guess security questions, and he never logged in from unknown devices. Though Bob didn't have multi-factor authentication enabled, he did add a backup phone number. On October 1, when Bob attempted to check his email, he discovered that he was logged out of his Gmail account. When he tried to login, he was told that his password was changed less than an hour ago. He tried calling Verizon, and discovered that his phone service was no longer active, and that the attacker had switched his service to an iPhone 4. "Verizon later conceded that they had transferred his account despite having neither requested nor being given the 4-digit PIN they had on record." The attacker reset Bob's password and changed the recover email, password, name on the account, and enabled two-factor authentication. He got his account back, thanks to support staff and colleagues at Google, but the story illustrates how telco are the weakest link. From the article: Using a few old Google accounts, I experimented with Google's account recovery options and discovered that if a Google account does not have a backup phone number associated with it, Google requires you to have access to the recovery email account OR know the security questions in order to take over an account. However, if a backup phone number is on the account, Google allows you to type in a code from an SMS to the device in lieu of any other information. There you have it: adding a phone number reduces the security of your account to the lowest of: your recovery email account, your security questions, your phone service, and (presumably) Google's last-ditch customer service in case all other options fail. There are myriad examples of telcos improperly turning over their users' accounts: everything from phone hacking incidents in the UK to more recent examples. Simply put, telcos can be quite bad at securing your privacy and they should not be trusted. Interestingly, it appears that if two-factor-auth via SMS is enabled, Google will not allow your password to be reset unless you can also answer a security question in addition to having access to a phone number.

How Hackers Broke Into John Podesta and Colin Powell's Gmail Accounts ( 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On March 19 of this year, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta received an alarming email that appeared to come from Google. The email, however, didn't come from the internet giant. It was actually an attempt to hack into his personal account. In fact, the message came from a group of hackers that security researchers, as well as the U.S. government, believe are spies working for the Russian government. At the time, however, Podesta didn't know any of this, and he clicked on the malicious link contained in the email, giving hackers access to his account. The data linking a group of Russian hackers -- known as Fancy Bear, APT28, or Sofacy -- to the hack on Podesta is also yet another piece in a growing heap of evidence pointing toward the Kremlin. And it also shows a clear thread between apparently separate and independent leaks that have appeared on a website called DC Leaks, such as that of Colin Powell's emails; and the Podesta leak, which was publicized on WikiLeaks. All these hacks were done using the same tool: malicious short URLs hidden in fake Gmail messages. And those URLs, according to a security firm that's tracked them for a year, were created with Bitly account linked to a domain under the control of Fancy Bear. The phishing email that Podesta received on March 19 contained a URL, created with the popular Bitly shortening service, pointing to a longer URL that, to an untrained eye, looked like a Google link. Inside that long URL, there's a 30-character string that looks like gibberish but is actually the encoded Gmail address of John Podesta. According to Bitly's own statistics, that link, which has never been published, was clicked two times in March. That's the link that opened Podesta's account to the hackers, a source close to the investigation into the hack confirmed to Motherboard. That link is only one of almost 9,000 links Fancy Bear used to target almost 4,000 individuals from October 2015 to May 2016. Each one of these URLs contained the email and name of the actual target. The hackers created them with with two Bitly accounts in their control, but forgot to set those accounts to private, according to SecureWorks, a security firm that's been tracking Fancy Bear for the last year. Bitly allowed "third parties to see their entire campaign including all their targets -- something you'd want to keep secret," Tom Finney, a researcher at SecureWorks, told Motherboard. Thomas Rid, a professor at King's College who studied the case extensively, wrote a new piece about it in Esquire.

Google To Launch Streaming TV Service In Early 2017 ( 21

It looks like the internet search giant is expected to beat Apple to the punch by releasing its streaming TV service early next year. The Wall Street Journal notes that CBS has agreed to bring content to the service, while 21st Century Fox and Walt Disney are in the final stages of talks to add their content to the service. What's more is that the service is expected to be "housed under the YouTube brand." Karl Bode for DSLReports writes: The service, to be called "Unplugged," aims to be a "low-cost option targeting customers who either have resisted subscribing to traditional pay-TV or cut the cord due to rising costs." While Google sells traditional TV service in its Google Fiber footprint, subscriber numbers have been low for the service. An over the top service might be well received by the general public, but it also might provide promising if bundled with Google FIber's existing broadband offerings. Google is looking to offer a "skinny" bundle of live TV channels with a price in the range of $25 to $40 a month, states the Journal. The report also notes that the service will be entirely separate from YouTube Red, a subscription service ($10 or $13 for iOS users) that offers ad-free YouTube video viewing.
Operating Systems

OMGUbuntu: 'Why Use Linux?' Answered in 3 Short Words ( 267

Linux-focused blog OMGUbuntu's Joey-Elijah Sneddon shared a post today in which he is trying to explain why people should Linux. He stumbled upon the question when he typed "Why use" and Google suggested Linux as one of the most frequent questions. From the article: The question posed is not one that I sincerely ask myself very often. The answer has, over the years, become complicated. It's grown into a bloated ball of elastic bands, each reason stretched around and now reliant on another. But I wanted to answer. Helpfully, my brain began to spit out all the predictable nouns: "Why use Linux? Because of security! Because of control! Because of privacy, community, and a general sense of purpose! Because it's fast! Because it's virus free! Because I'm dang-well used to it now! Because, heck, I can shape it to look like pretty much anything I want it to using themes and widgets and CSS and extensions and blingy little desktop trinkets!"

Chrome For Android Gets Its Own Canary Channel ( 22

Google is bringing bleeding-edge Canary channel for Chrome to Android. Through Canary channel, the company introduces early versions of Chrome upgrades to the early adopter and developers, and seeks feedback. Prior to this, Canary channel was available for the desktop version of Chrome. Alex Mineer, APK Administrator & Bug Basher said, "Just like the Canary channel for other platforms, new versions are built from the most recent code available and often contain a variety of new features, enhancements, and bug fixes. These builds are shipped automatically with no manual testing, which means that the build can be unstable and may even stop working entirely for days at a time. However, the goal is for Canary to remain usable at all times, and the Chrome team prioritizes fixing major issues as quickly as possible."

Clinton Campaign Considered Bill Gates, Tim Cook For Vice President ( 171

WikiLeaks has been releasing thousands of emails over the past couple of weeks belonging to Hillary Clinton's campaign chair John Podesta. One of the more interesting tidbits revealed from the email dump was the list of potential running mates considered by Clinton's campaign. The Verge reports: Clinton's vice presidential candidates, while not altogether surprising, include some vaguely interesting choices like Bill and Melinda Gates, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and General Motors CEO Mary Barra. In the mail, Podesta says he has organized the list into "rough food groups," one of which includes all the people mentioned above. Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz are also in this "food group," along with Michael Bloomberg. With just under 40 names on the list, it's not immediately obvious how close any of these people came to actually being asked to take on the role (Tim Kaine is on the list).
The Internet

Say Hello To Branded Internet Addresses ( 146

On September 29, Google published a new blog which uses .google domain rather the standard .com. It seems the company may have inspired other companies to tout their brand names in the digital realm as well. According to a report on CNET, we have since seen requests for domain names such as .kindle, .apple, .ibm, .canon, and .samsung. And it's not just tech companies that are finding this very attractive, other domain requests include .ford, .delta, .hbo, .mcdonalds, and .nike. From the report: Approval, of course, is just a first step. It's not clear how enthusiastic most companies will be about the new names. So far, Google is the eager beaver. What's fun for Google is a daunting financial commitment to others. A $185,000 application fee and annual $30,000 operation fee will keep mom-and-pop shops away from their own domains. Still, plenty of businesses other than Google see the new domain names as a good investment. Branded domains can add distinction to an internet address, and renting out generic top-level domain (GTLD) names can potentially be a lucrative business. At a January auction, GMO Registry bid $41.5 million to win rights to sell .shop domain names. And in July, Nu Dot Co won .web with a bid of $135 million. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Where does all the money go? To a nonprofit organization called ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The organization oversees internet plumbing on behalf of companies, governments and universities, as well as the general public.

1 In 2 Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Owners To Switch To iPhone 7, Says Analyst ( 212

Branding Brand recently conducted a post-recall study asking Samsung Galaxy Note 7 users which smartphones they would consider upgrading to. While 40 percent of them said they are ready to jump ship to a different manufacturer, 30 percent of respondents said they are likely going to be switching to the iPhone. However, according to one analyst, that number could be even higher. Softpedia reports: KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors that approximately 50 percent of those who ordered a Note 7 are now very likely to go for an iPhone 7, as customer trust is collapsing in the Samsung ecosystem and all these buyers are no longer planning to stick with phones manufactured by the South Korean firm. Between 5 to 7 million Note 7 orders are likely to transfer to Apple, the analyst says, and the iPhone 7 Plus is expected to be the main model benefitting from this transition. Other Android phone manufacturers, including Huawei, are also likely to benefit from Samsung's fiasco, and Google itself could also record an increase in Pixel sales following the Note 7 demise. But Apple will certainly take the lion's share here, mostly thanks to the iPhone 7 Plus currently being positioned as a direct rival to the Note 7.

Apple and Other Tech Companies Have Registered Their IP in Jamaica, Tonga, and Elsewhere For Years ( 42

Apple's product launches are notoriously secretive, but the Cupertino, California tech giant is sure to do one thing ahead of a big reveal: file trademark paperwork in Jamaica. From a Quartz report: It did this for Siri, the Apple Watch, macOS, and dozens of its major products months before the equivalent paperwork was lodged in the United States. Likewise, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft routinely file trademarks for their most important products in locales far flung from Silicon Valley and Seattle. These include Jamaica, Tonga, Iceland, South Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago -- places where trademark authorities don't maintain easily searchable databases. The tech giants are exploiting a US trademark-law provision that lets them effectively claim a trademark in secret. Under this provision, once a mark is lodged with an intellectual property office outside the US, the firm has six months to file it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When the firm does file in the US, it can point to its original application made abroad to show that it has a priority claim on the mark.

FTC Says It May Be Unable To Regulate Comcast, Google, and Verizon ( 86

The Federal Trade Commission is worried that it may no longer be able to regulate companies such as Comcast, Google, and Verizon unless a recent court ruling is overturned, ArsTechnica reports. From the article: The FTC on Thursday petitioned the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing in a case involving AT&T's throttling of unlimited data plans. A 9th Circuit panel previously ruled that the FTC cannot punish AT&T, and the decision raises questions about the FTC's ability to regulate any company that operates a common carrier business such as telephone or Internet service. While the FTC's charter from Congress prohibits it from regulating common carriers, the agency has previously exercised authority to regulate these companies when they offer non-common carrier services. But the recent court ruling said that AT&T is immune from FTC oversight entirely, even when it's not acting as a common carrier. It isn't clear whether the ruling sets an ironclad precedent preventing the FTC from regulating any company with a common carrier business.

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