Nerval's Lobster writes "According to unnamed sources, Nokia is working on an Android-based smartphone. The test versions of the device, which is codenamed 'Normandy,' run a heavily modified version of Android. In late November, @evleaks posted an alleged image of the phone, which (if accurate) includes many of the Nokia design hallmarks, such as a brightly colored shell and prominent rear camera. Exactly how the software differs from the 'standard' version of Android is an open question, although other companies that have forked the operating system (most notably Amazon, with its Kindle tablets) haven't been shy about modifying the user interface in radical ways. According to AllThingsD, Nokia's 'low-end mobile phone unit' is overseeing the project. 'Normandy aims to repurpose the open-source version of Android into a better entry-level smartphone than Nokia has had with its current Asha line,' the publication explained, 'which is based on the aging Series 40 operating system.' But here's the rub: Nokia's phone unit is well on its way to becoming a Microsoft subsidiary. Microsoft competes against Google in many arenas, including mobile and search. The idea of a Microsoft ancillary producing an Android-based phone to compete in lower-end markets — where cheap Android phones dominate — is liable to provoke a burst of surprised laughter from anyone in tech: surely such a project would never hit store-shelves, given Microsoft's very public backing of Windows Phone as its sole mobile OS. And yet, there's also reason to think Microsoft might actually take a chance on an alternative OS. Over the past few years, the company's legal team has cornered the majority of Android manufacturers worldwide into a stark deal: agree to pay a set fee for every Android device produced, or face a costly patent-infringement lawsuit. As a result of that arm-twisting, Microsoft already makes quite a bit of money off Android (more, perhaps, than it earns selling Windows Phone), which could acclimate it to the idea of taking the leap and actually selling Android devices."
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Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "For years, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of commercial tracking tools to identify and target consumers with advertisements. The online ad industry has said its practices are innocuous and benefit consumers by serving them ads that are more likely to be of interest to them. Now the Washington Post reports that the NSA secretly piggybacks on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using 'cookies' and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance. The agency uses a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the 'PREF' cookie to single out an individual's communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person's computer. 'On a macro level, "we need to track everyone everywhere for advertising" translates into "the government being able to track everyone everywhere,"' says Chris Hoofnagle. 'It's hard to avoid.' Documents reviewed by the Post indicate cookie information is among the data NSA can obtain with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order. Google declined to comment for the article, but chief executive Larry Page joined the leaders of other technology companies earlier this week in calling for an end to bulk collection of user data and for new limits on court-approved surveillance requests."
jfruh writes "Remember how social networks were going to transform the advertising industry because they'd tailor ads not to context or to your web browsing history, but to the innate preferences you express through interactions and relationships with friends? Well, that didn't work with Facebook, and it turns out it's not working with Twitter either. The microblogging site has announced that it's getting into the ad retargeting game: you'll soon start seeing promoted tweets that are chosen based on websites you've visited in the past. The innovation, if you can call it that, is that the retargeting will work across devices, so you can be looking at a website on your phone and see promoted tweets on your laptop's browser, or vice versa."
mrspoonsi writes "BBC reports: Leading global technology firms have called for 'wide-scale changes' to US government surveillance. Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group. The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programs. 'We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,' the group said in an open letter published on its website."
cartechboy writes "Does the Tesla Model S suck down power even when the car is switched off? Recently, a tweet to Elon Musk with an article saying so sparked the Tesla CEO's attention. He tweeted that it wasn't right and that he'd look into the situation. Then a few hours later, he tweeted that the issue had to do with a bad 12-volt battery. Turns out Tesla had already called the owner of the affected car and sent a service tech to his house to replace that battery — and also install a newer build of the car's software. Now it appears the 'Vampire Draw' has been slain. The car went from using 4.5 kWh per day while turned off to a mere 1.1 kWh. So, it seems to be solved, but Tesla may either need to fix some software, or start sending a few new 12-volt batteries out to the folks still experiencing the issue."
Berin Szoka is president and founder of the tech policy think tank TechFreedom. The group promotes a wide variety of digital rights and privacy issues. Most recently, they have started a petition demanding reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) so that law enforcement will have to get a warrant before accessing emails stored in the cloud. With so much attention paid to the NSA snooping, Berin believes that the over 25-year-old ECPA has been overshadowed and is in dire need of changes. Mr. Szoka has agreed to answer your questions about privacy and government policy online. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Ocean Consulting writes "CNN is reporting that over two million passwords from web service companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo have been captured via a key logging virus. The story is based on information released by security firm Trustwave. The report critiques how bad people are at making secure passwords, but does mention the use of Pony Botnet Controller."
OldJuke writes "Called the YotaPhone, the device pairs a traditional LCD color touch-screen on one side with a black-and-white, electronic-paper display on the other, allowing users to continuously view data in real time without having to constantly wake up their phones and drain their batteries. General interaction will be done through the LCD screen, but the e-paper display allows an image to be displayed at all times — from maps, airline boarding passes and family photos to Twitter messages and emails — but only uses power when the picture changes. BBC News interviewed the company's leader, Vlad Martynov, for a hands-on demonstration."
snydeq writes "With eight qualified candidates for every 10 openings, today's talented developers have their pick of perks, career paths, and more, InfoWorld reports in its inside look at some of the startups and development firms fueling the hottest market for coding talent the tech industry has ever seen. 'Every candidate we look at these days has an offer from at least one of the following companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Square, Pinterest, or Palantir,' says Box's Sam Schillace. 'If you want to play at a high level and recruit the best engineers, every single piece matters. You need to have a good story, compensate fairly, engage directly, and have a good culture they want to come work with. You need to make some kind of human connection. You have to do all of it, and you have to do all of it pretty well. Because everyone else is doing it pretty well.'"
mrspoonsi writes "Studies suggest red-haired women tend to choose the best passwords and men with bushy beards or unkempt hair, the worst. These studies also reveal that when it comes to passwords, women prefer length and men diversity. On the internet, the most popular colour is blue, at least when it comes to passwords. If you are wondering why, it is largely because so many popular websites and services (Facebook, Twitter and Google to name but three) use the colour in their logo. That has a subtle impact on the choices people make when signing up and picking a word or phrase to form a supposedly super-secret password. The number one conclusion from looking at that data — people are lousy at picking good passwords. 'You have to remember we are all human and we all make mistakes,' says Mr Thorsheim. In this sense, he says, a good password would be a phrase or combination of characters that has little or no connection to the person picking it. All too often, Mr Thorsheim adds, people use words or numbers intimately linked to them. They use birthdays, wedding days, the names of siblings or children or pets. They use their house number, street name or pick on a favourite pop star. This bias is most noticeable when it comes to the numbers people pick when told to choose a four digit pin. Analysis of their choices suggests that people drift towards a small subset of the 10,000 available. In some cases, up to 80% of choices come from just 100 different numbers."
SternisheFan writes "This Ars Technica article examines what may be left of ISON and contains a detailed animated GIF from the NASA STEREO Ahead spacecraft. 'It looks like comet ISON, or most of it, did not survive its encounter with the Sun yesterday, when it made a close approach at just 1.2 million kms from that fiery surface. This distance may seem large, but it is close enough to have subjected the comet to temperatures of around 2,700C. To survive such a close shave with the Sun may sound unlikely, but a few other sungrazing comets have managed the feat during even closer passes. So some people hoped ISON would perform a death-defying stunt and emerge intact. ISON did not leave us without a final serving of mystery though. Soon after reaching its nearest point to the Sun (known as perihelion), there was no sign of it emerging afterwards. Twitter and news agencies were alight, lamenting its loss and assuming it disintegrated—RIP ISON. But then, moments later, new images emerged showing a hint of something appearing on the other side of the Sun. Was this still a diminished comet ISON or a ghostly version of its former self? Well, even comet experts are not sure.'"
judgecorp writes "BlackBerry has launched BBM Channels, a rather Twitter-like social network that runs on its BBM messaging system. Meanwhile the company had good news in the developing world: it is the second most popular phone in South Africa. From the article: 'The update is available for BBM users on BlackBerry 10 and some older BlackBerry smartphones, but it is promised that support will be added for iPhone and Android soon, with users of those platforms able to access the web version if they have a confirmed BlackBerry ID email address.'"
benrothke writes "Many of us have experimented with what it means to be disabled, by sitting in a wheelchair for a few minutes or putting a blindfold over our eyes. In Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward without Leaving People Behind, author Kel Smith details the innumerable obstacles disabled people have to deal with in their attempts to use computers and the Internet. The book observes that while 1 in 7 people in the world have some sort of disability, (including the fact that 1 in every 10 U.S. children has been diagnosed with ADHD), software and hardware product designers, content providers and the companies who support these teams often approach accessibility as an add-on, not as a core component. Adding accessibility functionality to support disabled people is often seen as a lowest common denominator feature. With the companies unaware of the universal benefit their solution could potentially bring to a wider audience. " Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
magic maverick writes "A U.S. federal jury has ordered Agence France-Presse and Getty Images to pay $1.2 million to a Daniel Morel, Haitian photographer, for their unauthorized use of photographs, from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The images, posted to Twitter, were taken by an editor at AFP and then provided to Getty. A number of other organizations had already settled out of court with the photographer."
Fnord666 writes with this excerpt from Tech Crunch "Twitter has enabled Perfect Forward Secrecy across its mobile site, website and API feeds in order to protect against future cracking of the service's encryption. The PFS method ensures that, if the encryption key Twitter uses is cracked in the future, all of the past data transported through the network does not become an open book right away. 'If an adversary is currently recording all Twitter users' encrypted traffic, and they later crack or steal Twitter's private keys, they should not be able to use those keys to decrypt the recorded traffic,' says Twitter's Jacob Hoffman-Andrews. 'As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, this type of protection is increasingly important on today's Internet.'" Of course, they are also using Elliptic Curve ciphers.
jones_supa writes "John Carmack has left id Software completely. 'John Carmack, who has become interested in focusing on things other than game development at id, has resigned from the studio,' id's studio director Tim Willits told IGN, and continues: 'John's work on id Tech 5 and the technology for the current development work at id is complete, and his departure will not affect any current projects. We are fortunate to have a brilliant group of programmers at id who worked with John and will carry on id's tradition of making great games with cutting-edge technology. As colleagues of John for many years, we wish him well.' Carmack, a co-founder of id, recently joined Oculus VR as Chief Technology Officer, and at the time remained at id Software in some capacity. Earlier this year, id president Todd Hollenshead departed id as well."
Milverton Wallace (@milvy on Twitter) might seem an unlikely candidate to be setting up hackathons in the UK; his background is as a journalist, and he was born a few thousand miles away in Jamaica. Nonetheless, when I met up with him at last month’s AppsWorld in London, he was about to conduct another in a series of hackathons at Google’s London campus. He’s got some interesting things to say about the mechanics and reasons for putting a bunch of programmers (and/or kids who aren’t yet programmers per se) into a room, and giving them a good environment for creativity. He has some harsh words for the UK school system’s approach to computer education (which sounds an awful lot like the U.S. approach in far too many schools), and praise for efforts (like the Raspberry Pi Foundation) to bring programming to British classrooms, both earlier and with more depth. The same ideas should apply world-wide.
jones_supa writes "A classic game console freezing problem seems to affect the newest generation too. It has been found out that a bunch of Sony PlayStation 4s suffer of a problem which has been christened 'Blue Light of Death'. When a PS4 is turned on with a press of the power button, the light that runs along the side of the console should first pulse blue and then switch to white. At this point the console turns on the picture signal to the display device. Those who have a unit with the glitch are instead finding that their PS4 pulses blue, never goes to white and never outputs an image. We do not have accurate statistics of how widespread the issue is, but reports are popping up in Amazon reviews, Twitter, YouTube and other websites. PlayStation support is still in midst of investigating the issue, but has already posted a bunch of magic tricks you can try to get the console past the initial startup stage."
cartechboy writes "Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says the company will make an electric pickup truck to compete with America's best-selling Ford F-Series pickups. Musk made the comment yesterday at the end of an interview at a tech conference in New York. Surrounded by questioners, Musk was asked if Tesla would ever make commercial fleet trucks (like for UPS or Fed Ex) and he responded that a consumer truck would be the company's best answer, because America's pickup truck sales numbers don't lie — that's what buyers want, and if Tesla wants to replace the most gasoline miles possible, that's what they should build. Musk said it will be about five years before the company builds its pickup however, giving it time to focus on another hurdle: breaking into the pickup market. Texas is where trucks rule, and Texas, as we know, is the Bermuda Triangle for Tesla." That also gives me five years to save up for one, and (just maybe) five years for Ford, et al to jump in, too.