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Mobile Technology News, December 26, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • PlayStation, Xbox Networks Suffer Outages On Christmas Day
    TOKYO (AP) — Sony’s online PlayStation store and Microsoft’s Xbox site suffered disruptions to users on Christmas Day in the latest possible cyberattack on the electronics and entertainment company.

    The PlayStation Store Twitter feed said Friday that some users were having trouble logging into its network. It said engineers were investigating.

    A notice on the Xbox website said it knew some users were having trouble signing in. it said, “We’re aware of this issue, and we’re working to find a fix ASAP!”

    Earlier this month the PlayStation store also experienced spells of inaccessibility. That followed a cyberattack on computer systems of Sony Pictures Entertainment that led to the release of confidential information on the Internet.

    A hacker group calling itself Lizard Squad appeared to take responsibility for the disruptions on its Twitter account.

    Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Xbox and PlayStation online crash
    Xbox and PlayStation online services have been suffering technical problems, amid claims a hacking group has disabled their services.
  • 'The Interview' Draws Sell-Out Crowds After Sony Flips On Release Cancellation
    By Luc Cohen and Alicia Avila

    NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES, Dec 25 (Reuters) – “The Interview,” the Sony Pictures film about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, opened in more than 300 movie theaters across the United States on Christmas Day, drawing many sell-out audiences and statements by patrons that they were championing freedom of expression.

    Co-directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, who also co-stars in the low-brow comedy with James Franco, surprised moviegoers by appearing at the sold-out 12:30 a.m. PT (0830 GMT) screening of the movie at a theater in Los Angeles, where they briefly thanked fans for their support.

    Sony Pictures this week backtracked from its original decision to cancel the release of the $44 million film after major U.S. theater chains pulled out because of threats by the group claiming responsibility for a destructive cyberattack on Sony last month.

    The United States blamed the attacks on North Korea.

    Movie theater managers and patrons alike said they believed there was nothing to fear, and the initial screenings on Thursday were uneventful.

    The audience at the first screening of the film in New York City, at the Cinema Village in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, remained silent during a scene showing the death of Kim Jong Un in the downing of his helicopter.

    Matt Rosenzweig, 60, of Manhattan, said the moments that drew the most applause had to do with the idea of acting against censorship rather than animosity toward North Korea.

    The film is available online in the United States on Google Inc’s Google Play and YouTube Movie and to customers of Microsoft’s Xbox Video, as well as on a Sony website, www.seetheinterview.com. It can be seen in Canada on the Sony site and Google Canada’s website.

    A Sony spokeswoman on Thursday said she had no figures on the number of downloads so far or on how well the movie was doing at the box office.

    A spokesman for Microsoft also said he had no information yet on downloads and declined to say if the company had taken any special security measures or stepped up customer support.

    “Of course, it’s safe to say holiday season is always a very busy time of year for any consumer electronics company,” Sean McCarthy, general manager of Microsoft’s Xbox Product Services, wrote in an email. “So we work hard to ensure the stability of our infrastructure when so many consoles are activating for the first time.”

    RAUCOUS APPLAUSE

    Cinema Village manager Lee Peterson, who declined to provide details of security precautions, said the New York Police Department planned to have officers outside the theater. He said he had also heard from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    There was no visible police presence outside or inside the Cinema Village for the first screening.

    In Los Angeles, where the film drew a sell-out crowd for the 12:30 a.m. showing, people who held cups of warm cider as they waited for the theater to open said they came to show support for freedom of speech and freedom of choice.

    The movie, which is playing in theaters in major metropolitan areas as well as in smaller cities ranging from Bangor, Maine, to Jasper, Indiana, features Rogen and Franco as journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader.

    Sony decided to release the film after U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as such Hollywood luminaries as George Clooney and Republicans and Democrats in Washington, raised concerns that Hollywood was setting a precedent of self-censorship.

    In Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, where the first screening at 11:45 a.m. PT was only half full, some filmgoers were blunt about their reasons for attending.

    “You need to stand up for these things,” said Dennis Lavalle, an acting teacher who came with his daughter. “And I am not going to let a country that regularly depicts in video the nuclear Armageddon of this country and that’s OK, and we can’t make a satirical picture about something that is not going to happen.”

    MOVIE FANS HAPPY

    The audience in Manhattan exited the theater to a throng of network TV cameras and a crowd of people lined up for the next showing.

    “It was more serious, the satire, than I was expecting,” said Simone Reynolds, who saw the film while visiting from London. “There’s a message for America in there too about America’s foreign policy.”

    North Korea has called the film an “act of war.”

    Most fans simply called “The Interview” a funny movie.

    Ken Jacowitz, a 54-year-old librarian from the New York borough of Queens, called it “a funny film made by funny people.” He had a message for North Korea and the hackers: “You have given this movie whole new lives.”

    (Additional reporting by Mary Milliken, Eric Kelsey and Jed Horowitz; Writing by Leslie Adler; Editing by Howard Goller and Steve Orlofsky)

  • Bitcoin Bowl and the Disruption of Fiat Currency
    On the day after Christmas the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the University of Central Florida Knights will square off in the Bitcoin Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    In several short years few will recall the game itself, especially not those on the Trop’s Party Deck. But, historians will note that 2014 was the year that a major American college football bowl game was named for a post-national cryptocurrency associated with techno-libertarians and anonymous transactions.

    As much as it sounds like the premise of a near future, science fiction novel, it is happening.

    And, why not?

    The Bitcoin Bowl is a perfect end to 2014, the year that “the future” happened. After all, 2014 was the year in which American retailers started selling 3D printers, the U.S. Navy began mounting lasers on its ships, humans landed robots on Mars and an asteroid, analysts began asking whether home based solar power could kill off American utilities, and state-sponsored hackers raided Hollywood.

    It’s only appropriate that we’d end the year with the Bitcoin Bowl. And it’s quintessentially American to celebrate a new and disruptive technology with a televised sporting event from a massive, air conditioned arena in the subtropics.

    While the student sections from NC State and UCF will party at the Trop, cheer for their team and hit the clubs in St. Pete, the real story will be how TV (in this case ESPN) educates Americans on bitcoin. In many ways this is Bitcoin’s first TV extravaganza. And the available public opinion data (18 polls and counting from 2013-2014) suggests that most American viewers will be hearing about bitcoin for the 1st time. In May 2013 only 23 percent of Americans had heard of Bitcoin, much lower than in the UK (32 percent) and Argentina (38 percent). By March of this year, according to a Reason-Rupe online survey, only 19 percent of Americans had heard “a lot” or “some” about Bitcoin. But by May this number had increased to 37 percent in another online survey. And in May a survey sponsored by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors found 51 percent of Americans having at least some level of awareness of Bitcoin. All of this means that the Bitcoin Bowl itself will function as a basic awareness raising event.

    Given the ample number of surveys on the subject, American public opinion on alternative digital currencies is fairly clear. Most Americans still haven’t heard much of anything about Bitcoin. As with most new technologies, there is some skepticism and fear of the unknown. Those most aware of Bitcoin are most supportive of it and generally believe that it should be legal. But, those with little information on Bitcoin generally believe that it should be illegal. Many of these older, Middle-Americans may not be ready for horse and buggy fiat currency to be displaced by the sleek and somewhat mysterious Mercedes of 21st century crypto currency. But, despite current skepticism, survey research among American experts in IT (conducted by HP and the Ponemon Institute) “expect digital currencies to overtake paper currencies in the future.” Bitcoin, or alternative digital currencies that come after it, may be the wave of the future. They are at least one alternative future.

    And Bitcoin has a clear set of younger, future forward supporters. The Reason-Rupe research finds that “Millennials, Gamers, Independents and Libertarians say Bitcoin should be allowed.”

    But, it’s fair to say that given its anonymous nature and use outside nation-state sanction, Bitcoin is viewed with some suspicion by many aware of it. In a November 2014 survey in the UK 28% felt that Bitcoin had a bad reputation compared with 13% saying that it had a good reputation. This is no doubt tied to a perception that those transacting in Bitcoin may be doing so in the shadow economy or for subterranean reasons. Of course, this may all be true, but as almost anyone in America might point out, criminals have been transacting in cash for a very, very long time.

    Beyond current public opinion, alternative digital currencies like Bitcoin stand at the intersection of several critical trends:

    1. The rise of tech-enabled individual power relative to the nation-state.
    2. Technological disruption of industrial and pre-industrial systems like publishing, education and now currency.
    3. The digitization of payments and their move online.

    So enjoy the Bitcoin Bowl. Watch it on ESPN or enjoy the party at the Trop and cheer for the Wolfpack or the Knights. But mark this moment as another step in disruptive 21st century innovation. Because, when I take my seat at Tropicana Field, I’ll have ringside seats on history. And when you tune in, you will too.

  • Obama Caves To Girl Scout Lobby, Wears Tiara In Photo
    President Barack Obama eschewed one of his self-professed rules of the job for a Girl Scout troop earlier this year.

    Ignoring his own stern warning to not “put stuff on your head if you’re president,” Obama donned a tiara while posing for a photo with Girl Scout Troop 2612, of Tulsa, Oklahoma. White House photographer Pete Souza shared the photo for the first time on Wednesday.

    “Still editing 2014 Year in Photos. I may include this one even though it’s a posed photo,” Souza said on Instagram. “This is from the annual White House Science Fair. The kids from Girl Scout Troop 2612 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, convinced the President to wear a tiara with them for their group photo. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood proof bridge project.”

    The White House Science Fair took place in June, and focused on girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields who are inspiring the next generation of scientists.

  • Which Windows Phone Did You Get for Christmas?

    Now that Christmas has come for many, it’s time to see which Windows Phone you received this holiday!  Give me your vote!

    The post Which Windows Phone Did You Get for Christmas? appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • Google's Christmas Doodle Contains A Plug For 'The Interview'
    It appears Google really wants you to spend your Christmas watching “The Interview.” Just check out the note at the bottom of its festive Doodle.

    google doodle

    Yesterday, Google began streaming “The Interview” on Google Play and YouTube, a week after Sony allegedly approached the search engine giant asking for help distributing the film. The comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is also available on Microsoft’s Xbox Video and on SeeTheInterview.com. It will be playing on Christmas Day at about 300 movie theaters across the country.

  • Seth Rogen And Evan Goldberg Show Up To L.A. Screening Of 'The Interview'
    Eager moviegoers got an early Christmas present if they happened to stop by Los Angeles’ Silent Movie Theatre on Thursday morning. Run by nonprofit Cinefamily, the theatre hosted a 12:30 a.m. showing of “The Interview,” and co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg dropped by to introduce the film.

    .@Sethrogen and @evandgoldberg introducing THE INTERVIEW! pic.twitter.com/0WIWUL0AvE

    — The Cinefamily (@cinefamily) December 25, 2014

    You are the best, we thought this might not happen at all,” Rogen told the crowd, according to NBC News. “If it wasn’t for theaters like this and people like you, this wouldn’t be fucking happening.”

    seth rogen cinefamily

    If you haven’t been following all the controversy surrounding the release of “The Interview,” here’s a brief rundown of why the film almost didn’t make it to theaters: Earlier this month, hackers made terror threats against places that planned to show the film, and major movie theater chains decided not to show it. Sony yanked the comedy from the release schedule, but then flipped on its decision and made plans to release the film via VOD streaming services and in independent movie theaters, like the Silent Movie Theatre.

    To see footage of Rogen and Goldberg’s surprise visit, head over to NBC.

  • Is Your Christmas Present Spying on You?
    T’was the night after Christmas, when all through the house

    Every stripe of device with no need of a mouse

    Sent oodles of data to that Cloud in the Air

    While their owners slept soundly, with nary a care…

    When it comes to gifts from the Internet of Things department, there’s no jolly guy in a white-trimmed red suit with a bag full of presents, no magic reindeer clip-clopping on the roof. In fact, it’s far more likely that you’ll never discern the pitter-pat of digital feet when you connect that IoT gift to your WiFi — whether it belongs to members of a marketing team, cyber thieves or your garden-variety voyeur.

    You know what I mean here. I’m talking about the new smart everything: televisions, various household help such as thermostats and water heaters, garage door openers, alarms, lights, medical devices, fitness wearables and baby monitors with many more connected devices coming early and often to a store near you.

    You’ve hopefully heard this before with regard to your Facebook account and other social media sites, but it bears repeating: Whenever you are offered something free of charge or for a negligible fee, assume that you are the product. Often you are unwittingly pitching the product to acquaintances who are likely to buy the same thing — this goes for all those products that ask to share information about your new acquisition on social media upon registration — or you are helping the service that you just subscribed to (by purchasing their device) to perfect itself.

    In a perfect world, this would be… well, perfect. In the real world, IoT is still in the Wild West stage of its evolution. Indeed, smaller companies are rushing IoT products to market in a mad dash to beat bigger brands that have more at stake when it comes to security and therefore roll out new products and services with more deliberation and caution. As a result, you can’t always be so sure that your data is going to be safe. Over the past few years, we’ve learned the hard way that there is no such thing as too safe or secure when it comes to cybercrime, and there are a whole host of organizations out there — both big and small — that are doing a miserable job of protecting you.

    Just this year, a fitness wearable sold by Jawbone collected data about users’ sleeping patterns after an earthquake in California and published it. The data was anonymized but still many users protested because they didn’t realize that the product’s privacy policy allowed Jawbone to do that. A similar device called FitBit transmitted information about users’ sex lives. FitBit stopped tracking sex activity, Forbes reported, and Jawbone said its privacy policy is really clear and the company doesn’t share individual data without consent, Re/Code reported. Both information gushers were enabled by untoward privacy policies unread by early adopters and users’ false assumption that these products came with privacy controls set tightly as a default. The rule here should be as follows: Assume you need to set your own long and strong password, and that every shred of your personal information is being passed along to third (and fourth and fifth) parties, and to set your permissions accordingly.

    The fact is that few of us know much about the Internet of Things, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting it in our homes and on our bodies. But as we snatch up connectable products with reckless abandon this Christmas season, the number one issue we face is the protection of our privacy and the security of our data.

    The market for IoT products is snowballing. There are as many connected devices out there as there are human beings on the planet, and while estimates vary wildly, the lowball projection for 2020 is 25 billion IoT devices (the upper range is double that number). That’s three to six IoT devices per person on the planet.

    This year, on Christmas day, a record number of products that connect to the Internet will be turned on and start conversing with the companies that manufactured them. If the lucky owners of this holiday season’s latest crop of IoT products only knew the downside of the seamless convenience promised (but not always delivered) by web-enabled products, they might be as sleepless as every child was on the night before Christmas.

  • Hack threat comedy released in US
    The Sony Pictures comedy The Interview opens in some US cinemas and online, after a major cyber-attack and threats over its release.
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