Nerval's Lobster writes: Google’s Android Studio is a development tool for Android based on the IntelliJ IDEA platform, one that managed to attract a lot of hype when it rolled out in mid-2013. Roughly a year later, the platform is still in “early access preview,” and work on it is ongoing. Eclipse, on the other hand, is the granddaddy of IDEs; although it doesn’t offer native Android support, it does have some nice tools to help you build Android applications—one such tool is the Google Plugin for Eclipse, made by Google. Developer and editor Jeff Cogswell compares Eclipse and its Google-made Google Plugin with Google’s own Android Studio, developed with the help of the people who make IntelliJ IDEA. His verdict? Eclipse is beginning to show its age, especially when it comes to Android development, while Android Studio offers some noted benefits. "Android Studio is still in preview mode, without an official release, even if that preview is in pretty fine shape—its status certainly shouldn’t prevent you from using it, at least in my opinion," he writes. Do you agree?
Nerval's Lobster writes: In early March, Lit Motors founder Danny Kim hit the road to meet investors. The Portland native needed to keep the momentum growing for his small firm, which builds the two-wheeled C-1. His modest lab, located in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, could accommodate another 12 employees—but he needed the money to fund them, and to build a manufacturing facility that could turn his prototype ideas into a reality. Like Elon Musk and other manufacturing savants, Kim is someone who enjoys the challenge of building things—whether it’s eyeglasses, chairs, or motor vehicles from scratch. He’s spent the past five years re-thinking modern transportation, and using those insights to design prototypes of two-wheeled, motor-driven vehicles that can self-balance with a dancer’s grace, thanks to an integrated software platform and a patented gyroscopic system. In a wide-ranging conversation with Slashdot, Kim discussed his plans for manufacturing the C-1, as well as the challenges in convincing consumers to try out a new kind of vehicle. "Seventy-two percent of commuters drive alone, so it just made sense to cut the car in half," he said, explaining the decision to go with two wheels instead of four. "You have to think about this two-wheeled car as a robot because of its stability. It purely uses our AI/stability algorithm so it can balance and you don’t have to. We had to develop our own firmware for our own dynamic system. It is code heavy."
Nerval's Lobster writes: For years, Microsoft remained adamant about its licensing fees for Windows Phone: if a smartphone manufacturer wanted to include the software on its devices, it would need to pay Microsoft a certain amount per unit. That was a logical strategy for Microsoft, which became a very big company thanks to licensing fees for Windows and other platforms. Unlike some of those other products, however, Windows Phone has struggled for adoption in its marketplace, which is dominated by Apple and Google. In response, suggests the Times of India, Microsoft may have dumped licensing fees for two Indian smartphone makers, Karbonn and Lava (Xolo). Microsoft’s biggest rival, Google, gives its Android mobile operating system away for free, a maneuver that helped it gain spectacular market-share in a relatively short amount of time. If Microsoft pursues a similar strategy in different markets, it could encourage more smartphone manufacturers to produce Windows Phone devices, which could increase the platform’s market-share—but there are no guarantees that scenario will actually play out. The smartphone market is increasingly saturated, and Microsoft’s opponents have no intention of allowing Windows Phone to gain any ground.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, believes that the online world needs a ‘Bill of Rights’ to help protect users. “Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control—more and more surveillance?” he said in an interview with the BBC. “Or are we going to set up a bunch of values? Are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the world wide web and say, actually, now it’s so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?” Berners-Lee insists that the World Wide Web remain a “neutral” medium, one in which users push back against government attempts at increased surveillance. The Web We Want campaign, administered by his World Wide Web Foundation, has pushed public education about the benefits of the open Web. But would governments actually obey an online ‘Bill of Rights’? That’s an open question, and the signs aren’t encouraging: If Edward Snowden’s leaks about the extent of the National Security Agency’s online surveillance demonstrated anything, it’s that government entities will go to extreme lengths to monitor millions of people. What sort of framework could prevent that?
Nerval's Lobster writes: While automakers from Tokyo to Detroit rush to sprinkle their respective vehicles with all sorts of sensors and screens, the chairman of Volkswagen Group has warned about the limits of data analytics for automobiles. 'The car must not become a data monster,' Martin Winterkorn told an audience at the CeBit trade show in Germany, according to Re/code. 'I clearly say yes to Big Data, yes to greater security and convenience, but no to paternalism and Big Brother.' At the same time, Winterkorn endorsed a closer relationship between tech companies such as IBM and the auto industry, and highlighted Volkswagen’s experiments with autonomous driving—both of which will necessarily infuse automakers (and his company in particular) with more data-driven processes. The question is which policies from which entities will ultimately dictate how that data is used. Winterkorn isn’t the first individual to voice concerns about how automakers (and their partners) store and analyze all that vehicle data. At this January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a Ford executive drew considerable controversy by suggesting that Ford collects detailed information on how customers use its vehicles. 'We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone,' Jim Farley, Ford’s global vice president of marketing and sales, told show attendees. Farley later attempted to clarify his statement to Business Insider, but that didn’t stop a fierce debate over vehicle monitoring—and certainly hasn’t stopped automakers and tech companies from collaborating over more ways to integrate data-centric features to vehicles.
Nerval's Lobster writes: In a Google Hangout with an auditorium full of South by Southwest attendees, government whistleblower (and former NSA employee) Edward Snowden suggested that encrypted communication should become more ubiquitous and easier to use for the majority of Internet denizens. “The way we interact with [encrypted email and communications] is not good,” he said from somewhere within Russia, where he resides under the conditions of a one-year asylum. “It needs to be out there, it needs to happen automatically, it needs to happen seamlessly.” For his part, Snowden still believes that companies should store user data that contributes directly to their respective business: “It’s not that you can’t collect any data, you should only collect the data and hold it as long as necessary for the operation of the business.” He also couldn’t resist some choice swipes at his former employer, accusing high-ranking intelligence officials Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander of harming the world’s cyber-security—and by extension, United States national security—by emphasizing offensive operations over the defense of communications. “America has more to lose than anyone else when every attack succeeds,” Snowden said. “When you are the one country that has sort of a vault that’s more full than anyone else’s, it makes no sense to be attacking all day.”
Nerval's Lobster writes: Newsweek’s Leah McGrath Goodman spent months tracking down the mysterious founder of Bitcoin, “Satoshi Nakamoto,” a name that everybody seemed to believe was a pseudonym for either a single individual or a shadowy collective of programmers. If Satoshi Nakamoto, former government contractor and model-train enthusiast, is actually “Satoshi Nakamoto,” Bitcoin founder, then he’s sitting atop hundreds of millions of dollars in crypto-currency. Does the article's exhaustive listing of Nakamoto's personal details place his security at risk? Many in the Bitcoin community think so, and poured onto the Web to express that opinion. The Newsweek article has raised some interesting questions about the need for thorough journalism versus peoples' right to privacy. For example, should Goodman have posted an image of Nakamoto's house and car, even though information about both would probably be relatively simple to find online, anyway?
Nerval's Lobster writes: If you’re going to make up a cool-sounding job title for yourself, “Data Scientist” seems to fit the bill. When you put “Data Scientist” on your resume, recruiters perk up, don’t they? Go to the Strata conference and look on the jobs board—every company wants to hire Data Scientists. Time to jump aboard that bandwagon, right? Wrong, argues Miko Matsumura in a new column. "Not only is Data Science not a science, it’s not even a good job prospect," he writes. "Companies continue to burn millions of dollars to collect and gamely pick through the data under respective roofs. What’s the time-to-value of the average 'Big Data' project? How about 'Never'?" After the “Big Data” buzz cools a bit, he argues, it will be clear to everyone that “Data Science” is dead and the job function of “Data Scientist” will have jumped the shark.
Nerval's Lobster writes: As founder and CEO of the Ouya (pronounced “OOO-yah”) game company, Julie Uhrman’s mission has been to lure gamers back to their living room televisions. Touch-screen gaming on a smartphone or tablet is nice, she suggests, but a big screen, coupled with the precision of a controller with buttons and analog sticks, offers the best platform for immersive, emotionally engaging experiences. Soon enough, though, you shouldn’t need an Ouya console to play Ouya games. Later this week, Uhrman plans to announce “Ouya Everywhere,” an initiative to bring Ouya games to television sets that aren’t connected to Ouya hardware. As a company, Ouya remains vague about just how Ouya Everywhere will work; but in an interview with Slashdot, Uhrman provided a rough idea of what to expect: “It could be another set-top [box],” she said. “It could be the TV itself. There’s a number of different ways that games can be played on the television, and we’re actively exploring all of them.” To be clear, Ouya isn’t getting out of the hardware business. The company has promised relatively frequent hardware refreshes, and already upgraded the original Ouya’s controller to address early complaints. The next version of the Ouya hardware “at a minimum will have a higher performing chipset,” she said. “We have done a lot of work on our controller and we feel like there is even more work to do. Those are the two big things we’re focused on.” But while her company builds hardware, Uhrman insists that Ouya is “really a software company. The largest team inside Ouya is software engineers.” (Ouya has 49 employees, 19 of them engineers.) Ouya arrived with great fanfare in 2012, after a $950,000 Kickstarter campaign met its goal in just eight hours. The fundraiser ended up raising $8.6 million, and Kickstarter backers received their consoles in March 2013.
Nerval's Lobster writes: “Flappy Bird” might be kaput, but its hilariously awkward hero is serving another useful purpose in its afterlife: teaching people how to code. “Flappy Bird,” a free mobile game for Android and iOS that asks the player to guide the titular avian through an obstacle course of vertical pipes, became a sensation earlier this year, seizing the top spots on the Apple and Google Play app stores. Its creator, Dong Nguyen, said the game earned him an average of $50,000 a day through in-app advertising—but that didn’t stop him from yanking the game offline in early February. Now Code.org has resurrected “Flappy Bird,” Phoenix-style, from the smoking wreckage, with a free tutorial that allows anyone with a bit of time to code his or her very own version of the game. There’s no actual code to learn, thanks to a visual interface that allows budding developers to drag “blocks” of commands into place. “Flappy Bird recently met its untimely death. We might’ve been tempted to cry all day and give up on spreading computer science (not really, but R.I.P Flappy Bird),” read a note on Code.org’s blog. “Instead, we built a new drag-and-drop tutorial that lets you build your own Flappy game—whether it’s Flappy Bird, or Flappy Easter Bunny, Flappy Santa, Flappy Shark with Lasers, Flappy Fairy or Flappy Underwater Unicorn.” Childish? Maybe. But it could help draw people into coding for fun or profit.
Nerval's Lobster writes: It hasn't been a great week for Bitcoin. Cruise the Web, and you'll find stories from people who lost thousands (even millions, in some cases) of paper value when the Mt.Gox exchange went offline for still-mysterious reasons. (Rumors have circulated for days about the shutdown, ranging from an epic heist of the Bitcoins under its stewardship, to financial improprieties leading the exchange to the edge of bankruptcy.) But as one Slashdotter pointed out in a previous posting, Mt.Gox isn't Bitcoin (and vice versa), and it's likely that other exchanges will take up the burden of helping manage the currency. Even so, all currencies depend on a certain amount of stability and trust in order to survive, and Bitcoin faces something of a confidence crisis in the wake of this event. So here's the question: do you still trust Bitcoin?
Nerval's Lobster writes: Researchers have demonstrated it’s possible to create a computer virus that can infect wireless access points rather than computers, and use wireless networks to spread through the air like a human epidemic, from access point to access point, anywhere WiFi zones overlap. Wanting to test the possibility that a virus could attack wireless access points and use them to infect other computers on the same WLAN as well as other WLANs, Researchers at the University of Liverpool wrote and tested a virus dubbed “Chameleon” that replaces the firmware of an existing access point, takes it over, and uses its existing credentials to show itself as still functioning and secure to other devices on the network. “When Chameleon attacked an AP it didn’t affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other WiFi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other WiFi APs that it could connect to and infect,” according to Alan Marshall, professor of network security at the university and senior author on the paper, which stemmed largely from thesis research done by lead author Jonny Milliken of Queen’s University in Belfast.