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Showing posts from July, 2013

Google has a 'near perfect' universal translator -- for Portuguese, at least

Google has a 'near perfect' universal translator -- for Portuguese, at least
The company's Android product head says Google has prototypes of a device that will one day erase language barriers.
Eric Mack by Eric Mack  July 28, 2013 11:00 AM PDT
Google continues its efforts to bring us the world of "Star Trek" and life on the U.S.S. Enterprise four centuries ahead of schedule -- minus the really hard stuff like the warp drive. The company's latest effort along these lines, according to Android product guru Hugo Barra, is a real-time universal translator.
Barra told the U.K. Times that "several years" from now, he envisions devices (likely Android phones or something similar) that allow people to travel around the globe without having to be concerned about language barriers. Barra also spoke of the ability for calls to be translated from one language to another in real time, so that a person on one end of the call might speak in English, and that spe…

Massive solar flare narrowly misses Earth, EMP disaster barely avoided

Massive solar flare narrowly misses Earth, EMP disaster barely avoided
BY PAUL BEDARD | JULY 31, 2013 AT 2:35 PM
The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an "electromagnetic pulse" so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.
Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth's typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.
"The world escaped an EMP catastrophe," said Henry Cooper, who lead strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.
"There had been a near-miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us," said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astrono…
Mercedes-Benz integrating Google Glass into its cars Published July 30, 2013
Google Glass may be the must have accessory for nerds of the moment, but it could play the same role for luxury car owners soon.
The Silicon Valley Business Journal reports that Mercedes-Benz is working to integrate the wearable computer with its in-car infotainment systems.
The primary goal, according to the report, is to create a navigation system that seamlessly moves with the wearer from inside to outside the car.
The idea is that you enter a destination when you leave home which then automatically transfers to the car’s built in system as you drive and back to the Glass when you get out of the car, allowing for walking directions to your final destination.
Glass currently offers navigation when tethered to a smartphone, but using it requires that you wear the device the entire time.
The Mercedes-Benz still a few years away from the real world, as Google Glass itself is still under development and not ev…

How Google Is Quietly Taking Over - Services Collecting Data on Almost Every Human Activity...

How Google Is Quietly Taking Over
TECH | 7/30/2013 @ 7:52AM
Earlier this month, Google announced disappointing earnings, and its stock immediately dropped 5% (Disclosure: I own Google stock through a fund).  Most disturbingly, the company’s core revenue driver, the revenue it gets for each click on an ad, decreased 6% while traffic acquisition costs increased.
Ordinarily, rising costs amid lower revenues is no recipe for success, but Google keeps plowing forward and last week launched Chromecast, a $35 device that does essentially the same job as the $99 Apple TV and allows you to control your TV screen from a smartphone or tablet (including iPhones and iPads).
It sold out almost immediately.
The company also recently announced that it has activated 900 million Android devices and has 750 million users on its Chrome browser.  Taken altogether, the message should be clear.  While earnings might zig and zag, Google is taking over the digital experience.  Here’s a quick overview:
Mobil…
Hackers Reveal Nasty New Car Attacks--With Me Behind The Wheel
7/24/2013 @ 9:00AM
This story appears in the August 12, 2013 issue of Forbes.
Stomping on the brakes of a 3,500-pound Ford Escape that refuses to stop–or even slow down–produces a unique feeling of anxiety. In this case it also produces a deep groaning sound, like an angry water buffalo bellowing somewhere under the SUV’s chassis. The more I pound the pedal, the louder the groan gets–along with the delighted cackling of the two hackers sitting behind me in the backseat.
Luckily, all of this is happening at less than 5mph. So the Escape merely plows into a stand of 6-foot-high weeds growing in the abandoned parking lot of a South Bend, Ind. strip mall that Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have chosen as the testing grounds for the day’s experiments, a few of which are shown in the video below. (When Miller discovered the brake-disabling trick, he wasn’t so lucky: The soccer-mom mobile barreled through his garage, crushing…

Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords

Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords
Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.
Declan McCullagh by Declan McCullagh  July 25, 2013 11:26 AM PDT
The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.
If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.
"I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on conditio…

Music streaming hits 70% of market in pioneering Sweden

Music streaming hits 70% of market in pioneering Sweden
21 JULY 2013
AFP - Music streaming companies now account for 70 percent of all music bought in Sweden, home of Spotify, the world leader in the field, official industry figures revealed on Sunday.
The Swedish Recording Industry Association (GLF) said physical sales of music now stood at just 25 percent, confirming the march of digital music in the pioneering country.
The remaining five percent of consumers downloaded music to own on a hard drive.
GLF said the percentage of streamed music, where songs are downloaded but not kept permanently on computers, had risen from 57 percent in 2012.
Sales of music overall grew by 12 percent in the first half of this year and have been increasing steadily since 2008, while not reaching the heights seen at the beginning of the last decade.
"The strong growth seen in 2012 continued in 2013, and the Swedish consumer's preference for streaming is clearer than ever," said Ludvig We…

G-20 Backs Plan to Curb Tax Evasion by Large Corporations

G-20 Backs Plan to Curb Tax Evasion by Large Corporations By ANDREW E. KRAMER Published: July 19, 2013
MOSCOW — Government officials from the world’s largest and richest economies on Friday for the first time endorsed a blueprint to curb widely used tax avoidance strategies that allow some multinational corporations to pay only a pittance in income taxes.
Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, spoke about the agency's tax-avoidance proposal on Friday in Moscow.
In one widely cited example, Starbucks last year paid no corporate tax in Britain despite generating sales of nearly £400 million, or about $630 million, from more than 700 stores in that country. Apple, despite being the most profitable American technology company, avoided billions in taxes in the United States and around the world through a web of complex subsidiaries.
In light of such practices – which are entirely legal, but take advantage of differing tax rules a…

Google’s Revenue Reignites Mobile Worries

July 18, 2013, 5:56 PM Google’s Revenue Reignites Mobile Worries
By Amir Efrati
Google GOOG -0.86% reported lower-than-expected second-quarter revenue, reigniting concerns about the impact of mobile devices on online advertising prices and the Web giant’s push into lower-margin businesses.
The Mountain View, Calif., company reported a 20% rise in revenue from its core business in the three months that ended June 30, slightly lower than the 22% revenue rise seen in the prior two quarters. The company also reported a 16% rise in profit for the second quarter in a row.
But Google couldn’t stem a drop in search-ad prices. The “cost-per-click,” or the price that advertisers paid Google every time someone clicked on an on its search engine, dropped 6% from a year ago. Analysts had expected prices to drop by only about 3% in the second quarter.
During an earnings call with analysts, Google’s Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said “clearly, mobile has some effect” but overall the “hea…

Clever Hacks Give Google Glass Many Unintended Powers

Clever Hacks Give Google Glass Many Unintended Powers by STEVE HENN July 17, 2013 2:51 PM

Stephen Balaban has re-engineered his Google Glass to allow for facial recognition.
Courtesy of Stephen Balaban
At Philz Coffee in Palo Alto, Calif., a kid who looks like he should still be in high school is sitting across from me. He's wearing Google Glass. As I stare into the device's cyborg eye, I'm waiting for its tiny screen to light up.
Then, I wait for a signal that Google Glass has recognized my face.
It isn't supposed to do that, but Stephen Balaban has hacked it.
"Essentially what I am building is an alternative operating system that runs on Glass but is not controlled by Google," he said.
Balaban wants to make it possible to do all sorts of things with Glass that Google's designers didn't have in mind.
One of the biggest fears about Google Glass is that the proliferation of these head-mounted computers equipped with intelligent cameras will fundamenta…

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’LL BE 285 DAYS FROM NOW AT 2 P.M.?

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’LL BE 285 DAYS FROM NOW AT 2 P.M.?
THESE DATA-MASTERS DO. MICROSOFT RESEARCHERS HAVE DEVELOPED A MOBILITY PREDICTION SYSTEM THAT KNOWS WHERE YOU WILL BE, EVEN YEARS DOWN THE ROAD. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?
BY: CAMILLE SWEENEY AND JOSH GOSFIELD
Would you like to know how crowded your drive to the beach will be in three weeks? Or where your ex will be on a Friday night next month so that you can avoid him?
Adam Sadilek, formerly of Microsoft, now a researcher at Google, and John Krumm, a principal researcher at Microsoft, were inspired by the question of predicting where people would be in the future and even led off with the query, “Where are you going to be 285 days from now at 2PM?” in their their paper, Far Out: Predicting Long-Term Human Mobility.
“At first glance,” the researchers told us, “it sounds like a very difficult problem.”
Sadilek, Krumm, and others have done a lot of research on predicting where a person might be in the immed…

US blocks crackdown on tax avoidance by net firms like Google and Amazon

US blocks crackdown on tax avoidance by net firms like Google and Amazon
France fails to win backing for tough new international rules targeting online companies in run-up to G20 summit
The Guardian, Sunday 14 July 2013 19.28 BST
France has failed to secure backing for tough new international tax rules specifically targeting digital companies, such as Google and Amazon, after opposition from the US forced the watering down of proposals that will be presented at this week's G20 summit.
Senior officials in Washington have made it known they will not stand for rule changes that narrowly target the activities of some of the nation's fastest growing multinationals, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been told to draw up a much-anticipated action plan for tax reform at the gathering of G20 finance ministers this Friday, but the US and French governments have been at loggerheads over how far the…
July 14, 2013 7:06 pm
Apple hires fresh talent for ‘iWatch’ By Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco
Apple has embarked on a hiring spree to tackle design problems with its “iWatch” wrist computer, bringing in fresh expertise amid concern that the launch of its first new product since the death of Steve Jobs could be at least a year away.
The company has begun hiring “aggressively” for the project in recent weeks, say people familiar with Apple’s plans for the wearable device, a move that shows it has stepped up development but which raises questions over the ability of its own engineers to develop wearable technology.
As Apple moves from iPods, iPhones and iPads into an entirely new category of product, it is looking beyond its existing staff in Cupertino for the talent required to build it – an indication that the endeavour involves “hard engineering problems that they’ve not been able to solve”, according to one source.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, could still decide not to launch t…

Microsoft's restructuring signals urgency

ANALYSIS: Microsoft's restructuring signals urgency
Byron Acohido, USA TODAY 12:12 p.m. EDT July 11, 2013
Divisional hierarchy devised by Bill Gates gets tossed
Company desperate to gain ground in Internet services and mobile devices
Will reshuffling home-grown executives bring cohesiveness to Microsoft's corporate strategy?
Stay tuned. That's the big unanswered question following CEO Steve Ballmer's widely anticipated announcement today overhauling senior management at the world's largest software company.
"We are rallying behind a single strategy as one company — not a collection of divisional strategies," Ballmer wrote in a companywide memo. "Although we will deliver multiple devices and services to execute and monetize the strategy, the single core strategy will drive us to set shared goals for everything we do. We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands."
That message is not new — but the urgency has intensified. Ba…

How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages

How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages
• Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism • Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch • Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls • Company says it is legally compelled to comply
Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, Laura Poitras, Spencer Ackerman and Dominic Rushe The Guardian, Thursday 11 July 2013
Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.
The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.
The document…