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Google previews videos to search results on phones

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Google is beginning to add what it calls “video previews” to search results. They’ll start out on Android, where they’ll appear for searches made in Chrome and the Google app. At first, they’ll only be in English and in the US, but Google plans to expand the feature globally and in all languages in the future. A spokesperson says Google also hopes to expand video previews to other platforms, so presumably iOS and perhaps the desktop are coming. You’ll now have an idea of what’s in a clip before you bother playing it. Now, if you do a Google search on your phone in either the app or Chrome, results in the video section will show not a static thumbnail image, but a snippet of the clip. The idea is to help you decide if you should click to the video or not. After all, more and more of the content we ingest online is taking the form of short film clips.

That video there on your screen, the one demanding to be watched — is it basically just gonna eat a few minutes of your life for no good reason? That’s the question Google wants to help you answer with a new search feature announced on Friday for its mobile app on Android and its Chrome browser on Android.

Google started rolling out the change on Friday and said the feature would be available more widely next week. The snippets play only if you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, so they shouldn’t affect data fees from your phone company. What’s that you say? Auto-play videos make you wanna scream? Relax; Google says you can simply turn off this feature by way of the settings menu in the Google app or in Chrome.

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IPhone 8 Facial Recognition

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Regardless of whether or not the iPhone 8 will feature Touch ID, it’s all but guaranteed that the device will feature facial recognition technology. Over the past few weeks and months, word that the iPhone 8 will incorporate facial recognition has been corroborated by a number of credible sources, not to mention an endless stream of iPhone 8 parts leaks featuring discernible cutouts for additional camera sensors on the front panel of the device. While Apple tends to keep upcoming technologies and features under lock and key, its upcoming facial recognition software will likely be based on technology it acquired when it purchased an Israeli machine learning company called Realface earlier this year. Consequently, a close examination of Realface’s cutting edge technology can provide us with a number of significant clues as to what we can expect out of the highly anticipated iPhone 8.

Now what happens when a person’s appearance changes over time? After all, individuals routinely alter their appearance in a myriad of ways. Impressively, this is where the machine learning aspect of the software comes into play. Another design consideration is the fact that face recognition in the authentication context, you only need to keep track of one individual; but you need to keep track of changes in his appearance over time. People shave, wear makeup, wear their hair differently. So, we designed a new learning method that’s called personalized recognition that enables the system to evolve over time and essentially get to know you. All that being said, Realface’s facial recognition technology is said to be so advanced that it can reliably be used for bio-metric authentication and even as a means to authorize secure financial transactions. Indeed, Littwin during the aforementioned lecture made a point of noting that the technology was designed with the intention of meeting the stringent security requirements of financial institutions.

All in all, this sounds like a great feature, but it’s still hard to envision facial recognition replacing Touch ID entirely given certain use-case scenarios where a user isn’t looking directly at the screen. Replacing Touch ID would also make using Apple Pay decidedly more awkward. The good news is that we won’t have to wait too much longer to see what the iPhone 8 has in store for us. If all goes according to plan, we can expect Apple to unveil the iPhone 8 at a special media event in just about two months.

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AIRLINES WILL SAVE BILLIONS WITH PILOTLESS PLANES

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

A move to pilot less planes would boost industry profitability. Alternatively, if the cost savings were entirely passed to consumers, tickets could cost much less (11% cheaper in the U.S.). That would be about $40 a ticket based on a average of round trips est cost of $370. A survey of 8,000 people found that 54% of respondents were unlikely to take a pilot less flight. Just 17% of respondents, who were from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia, said they would buy the ticket. Air traffic laws in most of the world require “four-eye-rule” in the cockpit. Two pilots should be present at all times, and if one of them needs to take a break, another member of the crew has to take his or her spot.

The technologies in development today will enable the aircraft to assist and back up the pilot in all the flight phases, removing the pilot from manual control and systems operations in all types of situations. Commercial flights already land with the assistance of on-board computers, and pilots manually fly the aircraft for only a few minutes on average. However, contrary to popular belief, airliners do not fly themselves, even when they’re on autopilot. Pilots are continually monitoring and adjusting aircraft navigation and systems, communicating with air traffic control and preparing for the next phase of the flight. Analysts said the transition to pilot less planes is likely to happen over many years. Cargo planes would likely be first to incorporate the new technology, with commercial flights being the last to go pilot less. The number of pilots needed for each flight could be reduced along the way.

The shift has the potential to save the aviation industry huge amounts of money. Airlines typically employ 10 pilots per aircraft, and reducing their number would result in less spending on training, salaries and other staffing costs. It could also help alleviate an expected pilot shortage over the coming decades. An annual forecast released by Boeing last month said passenger and cargo airlines around the world are expected to buy 41,000 new airliners between 2017 and 2036.

The aviation industry could save $35 billion a year by moving to pilot less planes, according to a new report. Just one problem: The same report warns that only 17% of travelers are willing to fly without a pilot. The technology required to operate remote-controlled planes could appear by 2025. Further advances beyond 2030 might result in automated business jets and helicopters, and finally commercial aircraft without pilots.

 

 

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Walmart Futuristic Delivery Truck

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Walmart and Peterbilt have collaborated on aerodynamic, hybrid, electrification and alternative fuel projects in the past, each with incremental gains in fuel efficiency and emission reductions. The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience tractor combines many of these projects in a single vehicle. “Peterbilt’s goals of producing the most fuel-efficient, aerodynamic, and lightweight trucks in the industry mirror those of Walmart,” said Landon Sproull, chief engineer at Peterbilt. “Our combined efforts help build a business case for these technologies in the future, as well as support one of our best customers.”

Designers used extensive computational fluid dynamics analysis to optimize the truck’s styling. The truck’s shape represents a 20 percent reduction in aerodynamic drag over Walmart’s current Peterbilt Model 386. By placing the cab over the engine, the truck’s wheelbase is greatly shortened, resulting in reduced weight and better maneuverability. Walmart relied on product development supplier to carry out the vehicle’s construction with these detailed design specifications.

 

The truck features a micro turbine Range Extender generator developed by Capstone Turbine Corporation. The company also engineered the truck’s integrated hybrid drivetrain solution. The use of a hybrid powertrain allows the turbine to remain at optimum operating revolutions per minute (RPM), while the electric motor/energy storage handles acceleration and deceleration. A longer-range version of this powertrain would feature a larger turbine and smaller energy storage system.

 

When keyed on, the truck automatically detects the state of charge of the batteries and starts charging them, if needed, using the turbine engine. Charge mode can be manually selected if an operator wishes to “top off” the batteries prior to shutting down. For use in urban areas, the truck will run on electric power alone until the battery state of charge hits 50 percent. At that time the turbine will automatically start and begin charging the batteries.

Innovation is key to improvement, and the project aims to demonstrate a wide range of cutting edge technologies and designs Walmart is considering in an effort to improve the overall fuel efficiency of its fleet and lower the company’s carbon footprint. Although the prototype currently runs on diesel, its turbine is fuel neutral and can run on compressed or liquid natural gas, biofuels or other fuels. The prototype is the result of collaboration between Walmart and many vendors, including Peterbilt, Roush Engineering, Great Dane Trailers and Capstone Turbine. Almost every component on this vehicle is cutting edge and showcases innovations of the future that will drive increased efficiency.

 

 

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Jaguar thinks you shouldn’t have to leave your car to pay for gas

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Jaguar and Shell are teaming up to launch a brand-new feature that allows drivers to pay for gasoline without ever leaving their car. Starting today, drivers of select models will be able to use their car’s touchscreen display to pay for fuel at participating gas stations with a new cashless payment app produced by Shell. The feature, which is available in 2018 Jaguar F-PACE, XE, and XF models, utilizes PayPal or Apple Pay to make the secure payments, the British carmaker says, with Android Pay expected to be added later in the year.

The new service will only be available at all of Shell’s UK stations in the near-term, but Jaguar says it expects it to roll out globally later. And this won’t be the only cashless service offered by the carmaker: Jaguar says it is working on similar in-car payment features for parking and drive-through restaurants.

“In a world where cash is no longer king, customers are increasingly using electronic payments and contactless cards,” said Peter Virk, Jaguar Land Rover’s director of Connected Car and Future Technology, in a statement. “Making a payment directly from a car’s touchscreen will make refueling quicker and easier.”

Of course, you’ll still need to leave your car to actually pump the gas, so the time saved by paying with your car’s infotainment system isn’t likely to add up to much. That said, it will be interesting to see whether other carmakers adopt similar services, especially as more attention is focused on transforming the car interior into a smartphone-style gadget.

 

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Is Microsoft Edge Really Safer than Chrome or Firefox?

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Microsoft is heavily pushing their Windows 10-exclusive browser, Edge. Ads built into Windows 10 are now claiming that Edge is “safer” than Chrome and Firefox. How did Microsoft determine that, and is it really true? Microsoft’s claim is based on a report by NSS Labs, a business that sells threat intelligence and risk mitigation guidance to companies. The report tested 304 examples of Socially Engineered Malware (SEM) and phishing pages. They found that SmartScreen, a security feature in Edge, blocked 99% of the SEM samples. Chrome blocked 85.8%, and Firefox blocked 78.3%.

SmartScreen Is Just Part of the Picture

To understand what this means, you need to understand how SmartScreen works. Microsoft SmartScreen was first introduced in Internet Explorer 7 as “Phishing Filter,” and has been improved upon in each release since. Chrome and Firefox have similar warnings, but nothing quite like the bright red pages in Edge. These features check web pages and applications against lists of known good and bad items. So NSS Labs’ test essentially found that when it comes to malware and phishing pages, Microsoft has better lists. But SmartScreen is only one part of a browser’s security. While tools like SmartScreen are helpful, they should hardly be your only line of defense. You should still be using a good antivirus program in conjunction with something like MalwareBytes to protect yourself if something slips through, or if something comes from another attack vector. Those programs often come with their own blockers, too, as shown below. So yes, Edge may “block 21% more Socially Engineered Malware,” but that doesn’t mean it’s 21% more secure, or that security is even quantifiable. There’s a lot more going on in modern web browsers to keep you safe.

The Other Security Features That Matter

With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the other security features you’ll find in modern browsers, and how Edge stacks up to Chrome and Firefox. Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome have both fully implemented sandboxing tech. Sandboxes break up each component of the browser—tabs, windows, and plugins, for example—into individual processes. These processes are prohibited from interacting with each other or with outside processes, making it much more difficult for malicious code to spread across your computer.

Splitting a browser into several processes can also improve performance with modern multi-core processors, though it comes at the expense of higher RAM usage. Firefox, on the other hand, launched in 2004, when the concept of sandboxing was very new. Right now, it only sandboxes media plugins, but Mozilla is working on Electrolysis, a project to make Firefox multi-process and sandbox the browser. Unlike Internet Explorer, though, which was able to introduce sandboxing in version 10, Firefox had to worry about maintaining compatibility with almost 13 years of extensions, which is why this transition has been so slow.

So when it comes to sandboxing, Edge definitely has an edge (pun intended) over Firefox, but it’s on pretty level ground with Chrome. Ever wonder why your browser updates so often? Developers are constantly patching to fix security flaws. Of course, only users who install the updates are protected. Automatic updates help ensure that most people run current, protected versions of the web browser.

Google Chrome is the poster child for automatic software updates. They are installed quickly and quietly when users close the web browser. Firefox introduced a similar silent updates feature in 2012. Microsoft Edge updates automatically as well, although those patches are delivered through Windows Update. (This is one of the big reasons you shouldn’t turn off automatic Windows updates.) There’s one downside to Edge’s approach, though: Windows updates generally come at a slower rate than Chrome or Firefox’s browser-only updates, and you must restart your computer for Edge’s updates to take effect. Microsoft has said that in the future, they will start delivering some Edge updates through the Windows Store, which will help ensure Edge users stay up to date.

Privacy Protection

All three major web browsers feature some sort of privacy mode (InPrivate on Edge, Incognito on Chrome, and Private Browsing on Firefox). When the privacy window is closed, all history, cookies, and cached data is removed, leaving nothing behind on your computer. However, this doesn’t prevent websites or advertisers from tracking you.

Firefox has a clearer advantage in this area. In 2015, Firefox introduced Tracking Protection, which removes known tracking elements from pages visited in Private Browsing. In addition, the Tor Browser is based on Firefox’s source code, and adds new privacy and security features to help protect the anonymity of its users. Because it uses the same code base, it’s possible to port changes back from TOR to Firefox. Called the “uplift” program, the two teams started working closely together in 2016. First Party Isolation is the first anti-tracking feature brought from Tor to Firefox, with more in the pipeline. It’s also worth noting that unlike Google and Microsoft, Firefox does not make money from tracking users or selling targeted ads. The larger companies are incentivized not to improve your privacy.

The Bottom Line

Right now, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge have very similar security features. The claim that Edge is “safer” than Chrome merely comes from the fact that Microsoft keeps a better list of bad websites than Chrome does, though if you’re protecting yourself well with antivirus and anti-malware software, you should be pretty safe. Mozilla Firefox is behind the other two large browsers, but is on track to catch up in 2017. It is, however, currently better at protecting your privacy, so at least it has its own advantages.

 

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Facebook can now replace your weather app

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Facebook is rolling out a useful new feature that puts a full weather forecast inside its mobile app and desktop site. The feature is accessible from News Feed or the mobile app’s “More” menu — the section that links you to areas like Friends, Events, Groups, Pages and other key Facebook features like On This Day or Saved items. Within the Weather section, you can view a full forecast for your week ahead, powered by data from Weather.com.

Facebook confirmed that the new feature, an updated version of its earlier “weather greetings,” has launched to around 95 percent of its global population as of this week. This is not the first time Facebook has toyed with introducing weather information into its service. The company years ago added forecasts to events and public places, and more recently was spotted testing weather updates in its News Feed in the U.K.

A year ago, Facebook also rolled out “weather greetings” in News Feed, which were short, informational weather updates that appeared at the top of your feed in the morning. The new feature is an extension on that. You’ll now see similar messages at the top of the News Feed with a link to the full, five-day forecast. These News Feed “greetings” will appear on both desktop and mobile, Facebook tells us. Even if you miss the greeting, you can visit the Weather section in the app, where it exists as a new menu item.

In addition, Facebook will now offer an option to set notifications for receiving weather reports. The company says that Notifications and the more detailed greetings are rolling out for tests now, with all these updates being widely available by the end of the month.

The Weather section will default to your current location, but you can click the Settings wheel in the top right to add other locations you want to track, just like any other weather app. You also can choose to display the temperatures in either Fahrenheit or Celsius.

However, you can’t swipe through your multiple locations once they’re set up, as you could in a typical app like Yahoo Weather or Apple’s Weather app — instead, if you want to change to a different location you have to return to the Settings and tap the one you want to view. The weather information provided is fairly basic — it’s just the highs and lows, along with the general forecast, like sunny, partly cloudy, etc. At the top of the Weather page, you also can see the daily forecast by the hour, as is common in most weather apps today.

The information for the forecast comes from Weather.com’s API. The site also is linked at the bottom of the screen where it says “See more weather info,” followed by an icon indicating a new window will open if clicked. The cute, cartoon-style heading at the top of the page also will update based on the forecast. For example, a rainy day in San Francisco right now shows a picture of deer hiding out under a tree. Meanwhile, New York’s currently partly cloudy day shows puffy clouds over green grass, with a bird hiding in the bushes. (See above graphics).

This makes the feature feel more personalized, and Facebook-like, as the company has been using similar drawings in its News Feed informational messages for some time.

The addition is now one of several new bookmarks Facebook has rolled out to its mobile app in recent days, following useful utilities like its “Wi-Fi finder,” a new networking (or even dating) section called “Discover People” and now Weather. Seemingly, the goal with the new feature is to keep Facebook users in the app by offering them the information they would otherwise need to look for elsewhere, while also offering similar experiences to those that are found in other third-party mobile applications today.

Facebook, however, says it’s more about delighting users instead.

“We are doing this because our goal is to develop products that connect people to the things they care about most and create moments of joy in people’s day, like simply telling you that it’s going to rain later,” a spokesperson said.

 

 

 

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Identity Management Goes Mobile

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Today’s workforce is defined by a familiar mantra: business users expect to be able to work from anywhere, at any time, while using any device, all without limitations. As such, mobile devices are rapidly becoming the conduit into the enterprise. However, these expectations for seamless access to information puts a strain on IT to create and support an environment where expectations meet reality.

The kicker? Users expect that experience to remain the same as they switch from their desktop interface to their smartphone or from their smartphone to a tablet, and back again, often multiple times per day. And, in some instances, users are not even using their own devices to access cloud-based applications and data – meaning that traditional mobile device management solutions alone don’t provide the functionality required for truly seamless access.

It’s not just a functional issue. Often, security concerns keep businesses from fully realizing the advantage of mobile applications.

To change those perceptions, and enable the increasingly mobile user base, organizations need to embrace a robust identity management solution that protects the enterprise while making it easier for employees to consistently access their preferred browser-based and native mobile apps. Modern mobile identity management solutions should provide single sign-on capabilities for accessing both cloud-based and legacy applications and systems.

Single sign-on might be more important than some IT leaders think, especially when considering the number of cloud-based apps alone that a workforce accesses on a daily basis. In 2015, enterprise organizations ran an average of 18 cloud applications. By 2017, that number will nearly triple (52). Each app requires credentials, and with a fraction of these apps on a user’s device, sign-on can rapidly become a daunting, time-consuming task.

This only works if identity management is paired with a workspace solution with OS-native capabilities. Otherwise, even if the single sign on populates the device with the same apps each time the experience is often clunky and far from seamless. For instance, without OS-native capabilities, an app’s ability to access device hardware and capabilities can lag or fail altogether. Unfortunately, a poor experience leads to users seeking alternatives. While 79% of consumers are willing to retry a mobile app only once or twice if it failed to work the first time, only 16% would give it more than two attempts.

The overarching goal of any identity management solution – especially within the mobile arena – is to ensure the level of security necessary to protect the business. This is especially true when IT doesn’t have the luxury of always knowing what devices its workforce will leverage.

Identity management also represents an opportunity for IT to track app and device metrics, as well as provide an individual user or entire user base with credentials needed when the organization rolls out a new business app. Furthermore, it enables the use of customized app stores for simple, automated provisioning. Likewise, this layer of management means having the ability to revoke credentials just as easily as authorizing them – crucial for when users leave a company or lose their phone.

Understandably, mobile identity management is continuing to evolve with various biometrics entering the scene, especially as the looming Internet of Things environment promises to introduce significantly more connected devices.

 

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Microsoft saves $4.5 million annually using Office 365 eDiscovery

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

To continue to meet legal, business and regulatory compliance challenges, businesses must be able to keep and protect important information and quickly find what’s relevant. Spending days, if not weeks, manually sifting through millions of files to find the small number that are relevant isn’t just expensive—it isn’t an option.

At Microsoft, we know how demanding and complex compliance can be. As you might imagine, being a large enterprise operating at a global scale, we’re subject to many discovery requests every year. Our legal department uses the eDiscovery features of Office 365 to improve the accuracy and usefulness of our discovery results and save time and money.

Our white paper titled “Office 365 meets evolving eDiscovery challenges in a cloud-first world” walks you through the rich eDiscovery capabilities in Office 365 and gives examples of how we use them at Microsoft to help satisfy compliance and legal requests in a timely and cost-effective manner.

When organizations migrate to the cloud, they are better served by solutions that are designed for the cloud from the beginning. That’s why at Microsoft, we’ve adopted a cloud-first strategy. Our solutions give our customers increased efficiencies, cost savings and security in the cloud—right from the start. Our Office 365 eDiscovery solution brings eDiscovery to the cloud in a scalable, efficient, always up-to-date and secure environment.

Before Office 365 eDiscovery was available, we had to manually collect content from various sources. Gathering a large volume of content and loading it into an offline processing tool took time. Then we had to reprocess it. With collection, processing and remediation, it could take between two and three weeks to give outside counsel the documents they requested. Today, we do most of this work in hours, not days or weeks. We start to export content on the fly and can have it ready for counsel to load into their review tool by the end of the day.With eDiscovery search, we typically reduce the amount of content in a case by about 95 percent. However, this still leaves large volumes of data that need to be submitted to the very costly process of legal review. Advanced eDiscovery helps us reduce these costs significantly: we typically see a further reduction of 30 percent by eliminating duplicate files and grouping near-duplicates, and another 25 percent by consolidating email threads.

By reducing the amount of manual work required to respond to eDiscovery requests, Office 365 eDiscovery saves our legal department about $4.5 million annually.

 

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Uber accused of tracking celebs, politicians

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

gettyimages-585139324First there were worries about Uber’s “god view.” Now there are concerns the company is tracking celebrities and others through its ride-hailing app.

In the latest lawsuit against Uber related to data privacy and security, former employee Samuel Ward Spangenberg alleges the company doesn’t “have regard for data protection.” He says Uber collected data regarding every ride users requested, their name, username and email, their pickup location, the amount paid, the device used to access the app and other information riders didn’t know was being collected.

Uber then allowed all employees to access information like ride tracking data of “high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex spouses,” Spangenberg said in a court declaration from October, via the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The declaration also said Uber destroyed documents it legally was required to keep, and it would cut off connectivity in its offices so law enforcement officials couldn’t access Uber’s information during government raids.

Uber denied Spangenberg’s allegations, saying it built an entire system to limit employee controls over customer data and issuing the statement posted at the end of this post. After Spangenberg filed his declaration in October, a judge ruled the case should be heard in private arbitration, meaning there will be no public jury trial for all but one of the former Uber employees’ claims. As a result, the resolution of the case may never become public.

Spangenberg, 45, worked as a forensic investigator at Uber. He’s suing his former employer for age discrimination and whistle-blower retaliation, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. He said he was fired after working at Uber for 11 months for bringing up concerns about his employer’s security practices.

nintchdbpict000278386230In 2014, reports broke that Uber executives used a feature called “god view” to track journalists and other people without their knowledge. The feature allowed employees to see logs of Uber customer activity, though Uber’s data privacy policy said it prohibited “all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data.” Also that year, Uber discovered that a security breach had exposed the data of 50,000 drivers across the US.

In 2014, reports broke that Uber executives used a feature called “god view” to track journalists and other people without their knowledge. The feature allowed employees to see logs of Uber customer activity, though Uber’s data privacy policy said it prohibited “all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data.” Also that year, Uber discovered that a security breach had exposed the data of 50,000 drivers across the US.

The New York attorney general’s office launched a probe into Uber’s data privacy protections and the 2014 data breach, and in January 2016 ordered it to pay a $20,000 fine. The fine was for the data breach, but the settlement also focused on rider privacy.

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