CWmike writes: Google's strategy for making surveillance of user Internet activity more difficult for U.S. and foreign governments — started last year, but accelerated in June following the NSA leaks — is as much about economics as data encryption, experts say. Eric Grosse, vice president for security engineering at Google, told The Washington Post: 'It's an arms race.' Kevin Bocek, vice president of product marketing for certificate management vendor Venafi, told CSOonline on Monday, 'This is a business strategy. A large part of Google's business is about [customer] trust.' The crux of the issue with Google making the NSA dragnet harder(knowing if the government wants in, it will get in) is that the NSA evaluates the tactic it uses by weighing the cost with the value of the information obtained. However, the agency does evaluate the tactic it uses by weighing the cost with the value of the information obtained. 'The NSA has turned the fabric of the Internet into a vast surveillance platform, but they are not magical,' Bruce Schneier, a renowned security technologist and cryptographer, wrote in The Guardian. 'They're limited by the same economic realities as the rest of us, and our best defense is to make surveillance of us as expensive as possible.' The NSA's capabilities for cracking encryption are not known outside the agency. However, the most secure part of an encryption system remains the 'mathematics of cryptography,' Schneier said. The greater weaknesses, and the ones mostly likely to be exploited by governments in general, are the systems at the start and end of the data flow.'I worry a lot more about poorly designed cryptographic products, software bugs, bad passwords, companies that collaborate with the NSA to leak all or part of the keys, and insecure computers and networks,' Schneier said in a blog post. 'Those are where the real vulnerabilities are, and where the NSA spends the bulk of its efforts.' Is this about citizen's rights, or a business decision (some might say an existential issue) for Google? Does it matter, and will it make a difference?
CWmike writes: In a study on mobile applications and their level of security, RIIS, a firm that specializes in mobile app development, said that some of the nation's top brands, including airlines, retail outlets, entertainment companies, and insurance companies, are producing applications for Android that place users and their personal information at risk. The data comes from a study of twenty Android applications by RIIS, and how well they align to the OWASP Top 10. Of the twenty applications tested, only four were developed in such a way that when matched to the OWASP Top 10, they had no flaws at all. The other 16 (full list here, reg. required), however, had at least one issue that could be problematic. For example, Delta's 'Fly Delta' application, along with Geico's application were the worst applications, with insecure data storage, poor authorization and authentication, broken cryptography, and sensitive information disclosure, issues discovered in each one.
CWmike writes: Adding insult to injury after Wall Street boosted Microsoft's stock price when CEO Steve Ballmer announced he would retire, now a U.K. bookmaker is taking bets on Ballmer's replacement. Ladbrokes, a 127-year-old bookmaking conglomerate that runs nearly 3,000 betting shops in the U.K., Ireland, Belgium and Spain, has opened wagers on Microsoft's next CEO with a list of 26 candidates that include current and former Microsoft executives as well as people from rivals such as Apple and Facebook. 'There is always interest in high-profile CEO vacancies and we feel that offering the odds gives our view of the likelihood of the chances various contenders have,' said Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes in an email. Current Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop was the favorite, at odds of 5 to 1. Betting $100 with Ladbrokes on Elop to get the CEO chair would return a profit of $500 if he was, in fact, named to the top spot. The oddest candidates on Ladbrokes' odds list: Jonathan Ive, who overseas all software and hardware design at Apple, and current Apple CEO Tim Cook. Ladbrokes gave Ive odds of 40 to 1, and Cook even longer odds of 100 to 1.
CWmike writes: Windows app developers are taking Microsoft to task for the company's decision to withhold Windows 8.1 until mid-October. Traditionally, Microsoft offers an RTM to developers several weeks before the code reaches the general public. On Tuesday, however, Microsoft confirmed that although Windows 8.1 has reached RTM, subscribers to MSDN will not get the final code until the public does on Oct. 17, saying it was not finished. Antoine Leblond, a Microsoft spokesman, in a blog post, 'In the past, the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone traditionally meant that the software was ready for broader customer use. However, it's clear that times have changed.' Developers raged against the decision in comments on another Microsoft blog post, one that told programmers to write and test their apps against Windows 8.1 Preview, the public sneak peak that debuted two months ago. 'In an world inhabited by pink unicorns and pixie dust, the advice in this post would be sufficient,' said 'brianjsw,' one of several commenters. 'However, we live in the real world last time I looked out the window. In the real world, developers must have access to the RTM bits before [general availability]. The fact that Microsoft no longer seems to understand this truly frightens me.'
CWmike writes: With nightmarish superbugs threatening the lives of patients and healthcare workers, hospitals are taking considerable precautions to track who is and who isn't washing their hands. Summerville Medical Center, a 94-bed acute-care hospital in South Carolina, is having employees wear sensor tags to determine who is washing their hands before and after coming into contact with patients. North Shore University Hospital on Long Island uses motion sensors to activate remote cameras that track when caregivers enter an intensive care room. The video cameras transmit the images to India, where workers for Arrowsite, a Web-based application services provider, check to see if clinicians are properly washing their hands. Hospital-acquired infections cost the industry $30 billion and cause about 100,000 patient deaths a year, according to a report by the CDC. While new regulations impose penalties when patients get preventable infections, a study showed the fines did not result in a significant lowering of infection rates. Who's next to crack down on hand washing? Taco Bell?
CWmike writes: Today, physicians and pharmaceutical companies still rely largely on text books and infinitesimally small clinical studies that typically use healthy patients with only one disease. That pool of subjects hardly mimics most real-world patients, many of whom have more than one health problem. Big data analytics engines such as Hadoop have the capability to mine the clinical data warehouses created by now mandated EHRs, warehouses filled with valuable unstructured data that can be used to help doctors make decisions about patient treatment. But Dr. Robert Walker, director of health innovation for the U.S. Army Surgeon General, believes the real game changer in medicine will be an engaged patient, one who will enter his or her own data through the use of mobile devices. And that data can include not just medical information, but also lifestyle updates involving diet and exercise. Lucas Mearian has done an exhaustive report on the matter worth a read.
CWmike writes: The HTC First smartphone will have native support for Facebook Home when it ships on AT&T April 12. Analysts wonder how soon — or whether — native support for the app will be added to more smartphones. As analyst Jack Gold notes, that question may boil down to this question: 'How many users want a hostile takeover of their phone? 'he said. 'How many people want a Facebook phone?' Gold said he didn't feel that the native Home on HTC First will do well, and might only have a 25% chance of long-term success, despite Facebook's one billion users. Patrick Moorhead said device makers other than HTC or Samsung will likely support Facebook Home 'out of competitive pressure.' And he noted another tidbit about the first Home phone, coming April 12 for $99 on AT&T. 'I believe Facebook is paying the carrier and the handset provider, too, because it does involve more work and support for everyone,' he said. 'Other Android makers will only want a native Facebook Home if they are being paid by the carrier or Facebook.' Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said she expected other makers but said she couldn't confirm if HTC First will exclusively have Home preloaded for some time.All the new and recent Android manufacturers and devices will eventually support a Home app download, Gold said, but whether another native Home device is built will depend on the success of the HTC First phone. It's not even clear if it can be removed.
CWmike writes: The decline in usage share of Windows XP, which is slated for retirement in 53 weeks, has slowed significantly, hinting that millions of its users will hold onto the operating system much longer than some, including Microsoft, expect. Data published monthly by Net Applications indicates that XP's long-running slide has virtually stalled since Jan. 1. In the past three months, Windows XP's monthly drop in share has averaged just 0.12 of a percentage point. That's less than a fifth as much as the 12-month average of 0.68 percentage points. The slowdown paints a picture that must depress Microsoft, which has been banging the upgrade drum at Windows XP users for nearly two years, and has repeatedly warned them that free security updates will stop after April 8, 2014. Net Applications' data can also be used to roughly plot XP's future usage share. If the average decline of the last 12 months holds, XP will still account for 30% of all personal computers at the end of April 2014, or 33% of all systems expected to be running Windows at that time. Recent estimates of XP's future by analysts, however, have been more conservative, with experts from Gartner and Forrester Research predicting that 10% to 20% of enterprise systems will still be on the aged OS when support stops
CWmike writes: "Lossless audio formats that retain the sound quality of original recordings while also offering some compression for data storage are being championed by musicians like Neil Young and Dave Grohl, who say compressed formats like the MP3s being sold on iTunes rob listeners of the artist's intent. By Young's estimation, CDs can only offer about 15% of the data that was in a master sound track, and when you compress that CD into a lossy MP3 or AAC file format, you lose even more of the depth and quality of a recording. Audiophiles, who have long remained loyal to vinyl albums, are also adopting the lossless formats, some of the most popular of which are FLAC and AIFF, and in some cases can build up terabyte-sized album collections as the formats are still about five times the size of compressed audio files. Even so, digital music sites like HDtracks claim about three hundred thousand people visit each month to purchase hi-def music. And for music purists, some of whom are convinced there's a significant difference in sound quality, listening to lossy file formats in place of lossless is like settling for a Volkswagon instead of a Ferrari."
CWmike writes: "Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S4 smartphone in New York City Thursday night using the theme of a Broadway musical, but almost completely avoided any mention of the Android OS inside the new device. '"Android doesn't matter anymore, right?" said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, pointing to the lack of attention to Android 4.2.2, which the S4 runs. 'What matters to Samsung is differentiation from other Android products and making [the] Galaxy S4 clearly from Samsung.' But the unspoken revelation of the evening was Samsung's intention to build its own ecosystem for smartphones apart from Android, analysts said. 'Samsung has grown up and is playing as the big guy, moving away from Android,' Milanesi said. Kevin Burden, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, said, "It almost feels like Samsung is trying to set up Tizen as its next OS instead of Android.' Tizen is a Linux-based OS backed by Intel, Samsung, Fujitsu and Huawei. Burden suggested that it would be much easier for Samsung to take full control of Tizen as a smartphone OS. 'We know that Samsung tried a number of different times to use the Bada OS, so obviously they haven't lost the intention or desire to have more control over their platforms.'"
CWmike writes: Acer's Android Display looks like a giant Android tablet, with its 1920 x 1080 pixel, 21.5-inch touch screen — but you wouldn't want to carry it around. That's because the All-in-One Android Display weighs 4.8 kilograms and has no battery, so needs to be plugged in to operate. The display has three main uses, an Acer spokesman said at an event at the Cebit trade show in Germany on Wednesday. The first: as an information kiosk. Propped up on its built-in stand at an angle of 75 degrees, it can be used to surf the Web or view videos. Folded down to a 20-degree angle, the display finds a second role, as a giant tablet, allowing the user to interact with it more easily without the risk of 'gorilla arm,' the sensation of heaviness felt after a few minutes of operating a touch screen with one arm raised out in front of the body. Finally, with a laptop computer connected to its micro-HDMI socket the display can be used as an additional or external touch-sensitive screen. The main addition Acer has made to the standard Android interface is the Acer Ring: Touch a glowing green circle in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen and a circular menu pops up offering quick access to a browser, gallery, screenshot tool and settings, with shortcuts to open applications fanning out around the circle. Other apps, including Skype and YouTube, can be added from the Android App Store.
CWmike writes: "Google confirmed on Tuesday that it has ported part of QuickOffice to a technology baked into Chrome OS and the company's Chrome browser. The popular iOS and Android app substitute for Microsoft Office that Google acquired last year will run using 'Native Client,' a technology that lets developers turn applications written in C and C++ — originally intended to run in, say, Windows.With that it will execute entirely within a browser, specifically Google's own Chrome. Google claims that Native Client code runs almost as fast inside the browser as the original did outside. QuickOffice viewers come bundles with the $1,300 Chrome OS-based Chromebook Pixel notebook, and Google will add editing functionality in the next two to three months. Does this all make the Pixel make more sense?"
CWmike writes: Analysts are skeptical that Mozilla's push into mobile with Firefox OS would be a game-changer, as Mozilla suggests it will be. 'The chances of Mozilla Firefox OS making good in mobile phones are about as good as WebOS making a comeback in smartphones,' said analyst Jack Gold, referring to the mobile operating system abandoned two years ago by Hewlett-Packard, sold on Monday to Korea's LG Electronics for use in smart TVs. 'They're just plain too late,' Gold added. 'If they had done this two, three years ago...maybe.' On Sunday, Mozilla — best known for its Firefox browser — previewed the first commercial build of Firefox OS and announced commitments from four handset makers and backing from 18 mobile carriers. Mozilla makes it clear it views Firefox OS as a kind of mobile 'Reset' button: On its Firefox OS website, Mozilla touts 'Greater participation in the value chain' and 'Ownership and control over relationships with customers' as two of the four benefits to carriers and other partners. At Mobile World Congress on Monday, carrier officials complained that mobile OS vendors — meaning Google and Apple — made fortunes on their backs, and that Firefox OS may inject enough competition to shake up the current business models. 'We need a more balanced relationship with the OS owners,' Vodafone Group chief executive Vittorio Colao said at the conference. 'With more competition, the relationship will be more balanced, and eventually, the winners will be the ones who have the best products, the lowest prices, and the highest willingness to invest, with us, in the channels.'
CWmike writes: "The largest single users of H-1B visas are offshore outsourcers, many of which are based in India, or, if U.S. based, have most employees located overseas, according to government data obtained and analyzed by Computerworld. [Search the 2012 H-1B database by employer to see how many new H-1B visas were granted to a company.] The analysis comes as supporters of the skilled-worker visa program are trying to hike the H-1B cap to 300,000. Supporters of the raised cap, though, face opposition from critics who contend that H-1B visas undermine American tech workers and shouldn't be expanded. Based on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data analyzed, the major beneficiaries of the proposed increase in the cap would be pure offshore outsourcing firms."
CWmike writes: "A mathematician at the University of Central Missouri has discovered what is now the largest known prime number — one with more than 17 million digits. Dr. Curtis Cooper, who has made two other prime number discoveries, has found the 48th known Mersenne prime — 257,885,161 minus 1. The number is 17,425,170 digits long. Cooper discovered the number on Jan. 25, according to the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a 16-year-old project that uses a grid of computers provided by volunteers to find large prime numbers. If the number was typed out in standard Times Roman 12 point font, it would span more than 30 miles. It also would fill more than six Bibles."