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Mobile Technology News, January 25, 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.

  • Lost 30-Year-Old Conversation With Steve Jobs Offers Answers
    On a late-November day in 1983, Steven Levy, then a freelance journalist for Rolling Stone, got into a car outside 10460 Bandley Drive, in Cupertino, Calif.
  • Behind the Scenes at Tech Companies: Employees Teach Each Other How to Code
    Successful, thriving company culture becomes evident in its employees. Specifically, employees will be empowered to find ways to give back and empower others — and there’s no better place to start than with your co-workers.

    Online petition website Change.org is committed to empowering people everywhere to create change.

    “This requires bringing a diverse set of skills and perspectives to age-old problems,” said Warren Colbert, a director of product management at Change. He also mentors at CODE2040, where top minority engineering students nab lucrative internships and mentorship at Silicon Valley tech companies.

    It’s no secret that technology startups lack women in engineering (industry average is 10-15 percent), but change happens from within when a company’s leaders prioritize hiring from a diverse pool of candidates.

    The tech company’s efforts to change the gender ratio in the engineering department included partnering with women’s engineering school Hackbright Academy earlier this year. By providing mentorship and support from senior engineering leaders, Change.org successfully recruited and onboarded Jasmine Tsai after she graduated from Hackbright Academy, an accelerated women’s engineering school in San Francisco.

    Changing The Gender Ratio In Engineering — One Female Engineer At A Time

    Jasmine was the first female engineer to join the ranks of Change.org’s engineering team. By summer’s end, Change.org hired a total of three female engineers, a 200 percent increase from the moment Jasmine joined the team earlier that summer — and a big shift in the gender makeup, a welcome change for the engineering team.

    Sharing the company’s spirit of giving back, Jasmine teaches technical topics to non-technical employees at Change.org through “Women Helping Others Achieve” (or “WHOA”) — a group of female employees gathered to share their skills across the organization, from tech know-how to life hacks.

    Jasmine Tsai is not your usual Silicon Valley software engineer. A former investment banker who studied economics and international relations at UPenn, she found herself perpetually restless on the job and itching to create, so she quit her job to learn to code. Jasmine was working on small web projects when she joined Hackbright Academy, where she met a senior engineering leader at Change.org who participated in the Hackbright Academy mentorship program — and the rest is history.

    Giving Back And Making Change

    “Even though I am a junior engineer, there is still stuff I can teach,” says Jasmine.

    She explains to others what a “client versus server” means, what common programming languages and frameworks are, how to look at the console in the browser — “the basic stuff, more landscaping stuff,” she said with a laugh. “Landscaping is something I picked up from my previous career in investment banking when consulting with clients. It’s a market snapshot of how everything fits together. And when you are in a technology company, everyone wants to experience the joy of creating something.”

    Maggie Aker, a client manager working on sponsored campaigns at Change.org, said that while she interacts daily with engineers on bug fixes and product developments, “many of the nuances of deploys were wholly unbeknownst to me… until now!”

    “Jasmine has the unique perspective of having recently learned programming herself, so it was really helpful that she broke down the basics of programming for me in a way that she knew would be easily understandable for someone who has very little experience in the area,” said Erin Viray, a non-technical Change.org employee who attended a WHOA workshop on programming.

    The “Learn To Code” Movement

    “There’s a lot of debate whether learning to code is something necessary for everybody,” said Jasmine. “I feel there isn’t enough understanding about what code is and what it can do — so what I am trying to do is giving people an opportunity to experience it first and then they can decide for themselves if it’s something they’re interested in. Everyone should have an opportunity to learn to code if they want to and decide for themselves if they really like it. Not everyone should code.”

    The more women learn to code, the more female CTOs we have in power and as role models for young girls everywhere.

    Photos courtesy of Jasmine Tsai and Angie Chang

  • WATCH: Amazon Thinks It Can Predict Your Next Order
    A recently granted patent, first spotted by The Wall Street Journal, suggested that e-commerce giant Amazon was planning to start delivering products to your door before you even order them.

    Well, sort of. You shouldn’t expect all your wish list items to magically appear tomorrow, but Amazon does have an idea that may help it get ahead in the same-day delivery war, using predictive analytics and a transportation model that would see products basically hovering around potential buyers, either in nearby hubs or on trucks.

    Amazon’s algorithm would calculate the probability of purchases based on data like customers’ past buys, searches and, yes, wish list items, in order to be prepared when you (and your neighbors) do finally click to buy. And if an item is “speculatively shipped to a physical address” of someone who doesn’t want it, expect the responsibility to be on the merchant, not the customer:

    “Delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill,” the patent said. Which tells you that Amazon is pretty confident in its analytics prowess.

    See more about Amazon’s “anticipatory shipping,” and what it means for the future of retail, in the 100th episode of “The Content Brief” from Freshwire below.

    Missed last week’s episode? Find out why Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine think Beats Music can take on Spotify and Pandora here.

  • Want to Know What Verizon and AT&T Really Tell Their Investors?
    Hint: It’s not what they tell the regulators or the public.

    We’ve said this before, and we say it again: Verizon’s and AT&T’s current state and federal plan, called the “IP transition,” is nothing more than another way to game the system by telling the regulators what they want to hear.

    The truth is that the real reason that we are having a “transition” is to add more to the corporate bank accounts (read: more ways to charge you more) without those pesky regulators watching. In fact, we shouldn’t be we sitting here talking about a “transition”; we should be talking about the market takeover and calling for investigations.

    Let’s see what Verizon’s and AT&T’s executives told investors at various events about the companies’ future plans.

    (Note: I’m all for capitalism, but that assumes a free market with competition. Verizon controls the wires and can simply raise rates or “kill the copper” or force customers onto other products that they own and control. That’s not a competitive market.)

    ‘Kill the Copper’ and Force Customers Onto FIOS — Because It Makes More Money

    It started in earnest in New York and New Jersey after the Sandy storm in October 2012. Verizon refused to fix the utility customers’ copper-based services after the storm, leaving tens of thousands hanging for months or forcing them onto inferior wireless services, as they did to customers in Fire Island, N.Y. It now appears that this failure to restore customers’ original service after an emergency was nothing more than Verizon’s corporate plan to make more money.

    Lowell McAdam, Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, speaking at the Citi Global Internet Media and Telecommunications Conference in January 2013, said that Verizon’s new “mantra” is “Don’t fix the copper wires”:

    When we had the impact of Sandy, our mantra was you will not fix copper. So if copper got into any kind of a damaged situation and FiOS was in the vicinity, or we could run FiOS down an adjacent street and get into there, we would cut the copper out of service.

    And why do it? Well, upselling — that is, having the customers buy more products from the companies’ own affiliates.

    Now what is the reason we want to do that? Well, when a customer goes, even to FiOS digital voice, they very quickly see the difference on copper, and we have seen the ability to sell up.

    We note that in April 2013 we met with a room full of not-happy people from the E. 9th Street Block Association in Manhattan, who had been out of service for six months since Sandy and couldn’t get FiOS. And Verizon had lied to each one a number of times, claiming that they would repair their service. (Here’s one flyer that was handed out about this situation.)

    While the natural disaster gave Verizon the opportunity to implement this master plan, McAdam had been talking about this throughout 2012. In June 2012 he stated that killing the copper was a “pot of gold“:

    But the vision that I have is we are going into the copper plant areas, and every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper. We are going to just take it out of service, and we are going to move those services onto FiOS. We have got parallel networks in way too many places now, so that is a pot of gold in my view.

    And at the September 2012 J.P. Morgan analyst conference, McAdam said that moving the customers to FiOS makes the company more profits:

    And we’re going to move them off of copper and onto the FIOS, which helps the FIOS profitability as well as removes all the expense associated with that copper plant. So we’re going to move forward with that.

    And in October 2012, right before Sandy, McAdam claimed that this plan was designed because “there is nice upside there.” The company would make more money because it would be “upselling” the customers on other Verizon services, and because converting them saved the company money on maintenance. In fact, this all helped deliver the “best shareholder value contribution.” Here’s McAdam on Sept. 7, 2012:

    So we certainly start where we’ve got parallel networks. And we have a lot of those in place. And we’re attacking them from the top down based on maintenance activity or based on the ability to sell into that customer. We see after a customer moves over to FIOS, we may sell them the regular digital voice service and then move them over on the Internet side. And then you move them over on the TV side. So there is nice upside there. So we look at it from maintenance-cost perspective as well as a revenue-potential perspective. And then you do get to a point where, in a geography, if you’ve got nine out of 10, let’s say, customers on a street that are on FIOS, you’re just going to cut the 10th one over and then decommission all of the copper. So we factor all of that into the analysis and come up with the best shareholder value contribution.

    Verizon also admitted that it stopped selling DSL and was forcing customers onto FiOS — and again to make money and upsell customers:

    On Wireline margins, just a couple things here to talk to. Number one, we did have the FiOS-to-copper migration, which impacted our short-term results. But we’ve talked that this is a strategy that we are deploying. It is better for us long-term to get most of these customers off of our copper network to our FiOS network, as you saw that we are — stopped selling our naked DSL in FiOS-covered area. And we started to convert a number of customers in this quarter over to our FiOS network from a voice perspective.

    Now, a couple things here that this will launch. Number one, we will see a long-term benefit in our repairs and maintenance decrease over time. We will also get the upsell capability to start selling these voice customers on better speeds of FiOS and better experience, and also then into the linear TV product that we have to offer. And what we are seeing is the minimal number that we converted last year during our trials, we are starting to see a 30-percent sale upgrade on those customers. But it does take us three to six months to convince those customers to upgrade. So this is a longer-term type strategy.

    And in April 2012 McAdam pointed out that when the company wanted more money, they simply printed it by increasing the prices:

    In addition, going into the future, you are going to see — you may have already saw — that we are starting to do some price-ups in strategic areas. We’ve already started that in April, but over the next two quarters, we’re going to have several price-ups in our FiOS packages. In addition, we are going to rebundle certain of our packages to better bundle our content in order to make it more profitable, based on the tier that you pick for us. The other thing is that there are other revenue streams coming down the pike, like home monitoring control, that will contribute to the overall ARPU of our FiOS platform.

    Isn’t it nice when a company simply prints more money via raising rates? It clearly shows that there’s little, if any, serious competition.

    On a May 30, 2013, Nomura analyst conference call, Francis Shammo, Executive Vice President and CFO of Verizon, said pretty much the same thing — that once you convert customers to FiOS, you can sell them more. However, he noted that this shouldn’t be done too quickly, as the customer will think they are have been “gamed”:

    The side benefit of doing it, though, is what we are seeing is once we put that OMT on the side of the house and give you voice and give you the basic speed of FiOS, after a couple of months, they are choosing to buy up in the speeds, because now they are realizing this unbelievable fiber product that they have on the side of their home. So they are buying up into those tiers, and we see that most people are buying up to the 50-megabit plan.

    Then what happens is, six to eight months after that, you then market it to them, because what we found is you can’t do it too soon, because then they think they are being gamed somehow. So six to eight months later, you start to approach them on, “Hey, by the way, we think we can save you money on your cable bill by taking FiOS TV.” And what we are seeing is about a 35-percent to 36-percent take rate now on those copper customers who just had voice and DSL. Once they come over within a year, they become a triple play on FiOS.

    The Plan: Don’t Fix the Copper; Push Them Onto Wireless

    Verizon also decided that instead of fixing the copper, it would force customers in “more rural areas” to be put onto wireless services. McAdam stated in June 2012:

    And then in other areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got LTE built that will handle all of those services, and so we are going to cut the copper off there.

    At the September 2012 J.P. Morgan analyst conference, McAdam said moving the customers to wireless makes the company more profits:

    And in many areas we’re also taking customers that aren’t performing well on copper and we’re moving them over to the wireless technology. So that improves our cost structure significantly and streamlines all those ongoing maintenance costs.

    Wireless LTE Is Not a Substitute for FiOS for Video

    Verizon knows that wireless, even their LTE product, doesn’t replace wireline broadband networks for video. McAdam stated in June 2012:

    I mean we want to shift as much onto FiOS or onto the fixed network where we can and then provide — use that capacity to provide those higher-demand services like video. I don’t expect anybody to sit in their home watching video over LTE. I want them to be able to watch it on their tablet anywhere in the house using the WiFi network.

    And this admission means that Verizon’s plan to halt their FiOS deployment will harm every customer outside the “footprint,” which could be as much as 50 percent of their territories.

    Shammo also made this same point in May 2013 and also noted that Verizon was making “headway” with regulators:

    [T]here is a different solution rather than building infrastructure to some of these what I would call more rural areas, and it’s really with using the LTE technology, the Fusion technology from a broadband perspective. And we still have some work to do with regulators, but we are making headway here, and I think that’s the route that we will take.

    And Verizon has no interest in having the wireless company compete with the wireline company. In September 2012 McAdam said:

    [Y]ou won’t see Verizon trying to compete against FIOS with LTE. That’s not in the cards here until you have an unlimited supply of spectrum. And I don’t think that’s coming anytime in my career.

    And, again, Verizon admitted that wireless simply will never get to the high speeds that FiOS offers. Mike Rollins, a Citigroup analyst, asked at the January 2013 event:

    The question that comes off of the ability to watch video in a quality way on a wireless device then gets to: What is the ability for LTE to displace the DSL or the low-end high-speed Internet offerings and your ability to have a true replacement product with LTE? How pervasive could that be?

    McAdam responded that wireless won’t be as fast as wired:

    Well, the low-end stuff I think will always fall away, but I say this to our management team: I think as we leapfrog, wireless sort of nibbles away at the lower end of the wireline side. But if you take a look at FiOS, this year we went from — well, two years ago we were at about 50 megabits of throughput into the home. We are at 100 broadly now, and we have just introduced 300. So if you looked at that progression, will wireless do 300 megabits? Probably not in my career. At some point it surely will, but not in my career, and so I think this sort of leapfrogging is what we should expect going forward.

    AT&T Is, of Course, Doing the Same Thing — Driving Profits Is the Goal

    As I pointed out, AT&T’s IP transition is about more profits, not technology changes. According to AT&T’s press release on Nov. 7, 2012:

    Driven by Project VIP and assuming a stable economy, AT&T expects that during the investment period:

    • Earnings per share will grow in the mid-single-digit or better range, with an opportunity for stronger growth going forward.
    • Consolidated margins will expand.

    In fact, this is really about multiple new billion-dollar business opportunities. AT&T states:

    Project VIP Supports New Growth Initiatives — With business customers, AT&T expects Project VIP will strengthen its ability to pursue multiple new billion-dollar business opportunities in four key growth areas: strategic network services, cloud, security and mobility solutions.

    The takeaway point about all the companies’ actions, it would appear, is that it’s not a technology “transition” but just another way to force customers to pay more, or to get regulatory favors. If they said, “Well, we want to upsell the customer, raise their rates, and shut down the copper services they use and replace them with wireless, which can’t compete with wired upgrades in terms of high speed, all to make us more money,” would we be sitting here discussing a “transition,” or would we be calling for investigations?

    What a sham.

    Thanks to Jim Rosenthal, Fire Island resident, who assisted in the research used in this blog post.

  • McLaren F1 Race Car Revealed For 2014 Formula 1 Season
    WOKING, England (AP) — McLaren has unveiled its new MP4-29 car for the coming Formula One season with the hope of improving on the team’s worst performance for nearly a decade.

    With its narrower front wing, lower nose and smaller rear wing, McLaren is counting on the new car to deliver after finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship last season. “We have responded to the disappointment of our 2013 season by pragmatically framing our approach to the (new) technical challenge,” McLaren said in a statement on Friday. “The new MP4-29 … is a sensible and calculated response to the new regulations.”

    Among the changes in regulations for this season is the replacement of the 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine with a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged motor.

    McLaren’s lead driver, Jenson Button, achieved the team’s highest finish last season when he came fourth in the Brazilian GP.

    “Obviously, we want to get back to the front,” Button said. “We want to have a better season than we did in 2013, too.

    “But it’s really difficult to accurately predict anything right now – these are such huge changes that they’ll have a massive impact on the competitive order, so we need to wait and just see how things shake out.”

    Button has a new teammate after Sergio Perez was replaced by Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, who impressed during his title-winning Formula Renault 3.5 season last year.

    “We’ll be working very closely together to share data and gather as much information as we can about what the car’s doing, and how we can improve it,” Button said.

    “Our aim must be to have a smooth and productive winter; I’m very keen to learn all about the new formula and our new car, and I want us to be in a position where we head to the opening flyaways feeling comfortable with our package, yet still ready to absorb and learn more as we go.”

    Magnussen has meanwhile been preparing for the step up to Formula One.

    “I’ve spent every available day working – either with my engineers, with the team management, or with the trainers… building those relationships, getting to grips with the car, the style of driving, the cockpit and control systems, and improving my fitness,” he said.

    “It’s a constant learning curve, but it’s fun and satisfying to be able to do it with a group of people who work so closely with you.”

    McLaren also finished fifth in 2004, having previously been consistently in the top four since 1983.

  • 'A Conference Call In Real Life' Nails The Worst Part Of Office Life
    Anyone that’s ever had an office job knows conference calls can often be the worst. The constant beeps, the awkward pauses, that guy who forgets to use the mute button — the reasons to hate those dreaded meetings just goes on and on.

    But at least we now know we’re not suffering alone, thanks to this sketch from Tripp and Tyler, which hilariously demonstrates how a conference call would play out in real life. And yes, it’s possible the in-person call is somehow even worse.

  • Can't Upload Your Ebook 'Cause It's 'Encrypted'? Here's Why.
    ePub Logo

    In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had three separate friends come to me grumbling about not being able to upload their ebooks to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or one of the other online stores because the ebook site tells them the files are encrypted.

    “Did you export the ePub file from InDesign?” I ask.

    “Yeah,” they say. “What does that have to do with anything?”

    “Everything,” I answer….

    This is a classic problem that folks run into with InDesign conversion — Adobe’s a font foundry as well as a software company, and so when you embed fonts while converting from InDesign, the page-layout app automatically obfuscates them. Essentially, it encrypts them so that only a person with the license to use that font on that machine can open the ebook. So most ebook sites won’t allow you to upload a file with obfuscated fonts. (They just don’t tell you that. They say the file’s “encrypted.” That’s helpful!)

    The problem is that many professional designers are used to laying out books in ID. And its ePub-exporting function has gotten good enough in the last few iterations of the software that it actually can be useful in creating ebooks — especially if the ebooks have complicated formats or lots of internal hyperlinking (i.e., footnotes or cross-references). However, if you aren’t paying attention, font obfuscation can kill the whole process.

    There are ways to turn obfuscation off in the ePub file after it’s been generated — but that’s not necessarily the best answer.

    The thing to remember about embedded fonts is that unless you’ve created a fixed-format ebook, the users’ preferences will usually trump whatever typographic adjustments you’ve made. Base font size, typeface — all of those are settable by the reader. Some ereaders and ereader apps have a setting to “Use Publisher’s Fonts” — Kindle for iOS does, for example — but even then, if the user has set their typeface preference to Palatino, say, or Comic Sans (:shudder:), the whole book will display in that. At that point, the fonts are adding size your file for no reason. In the case of Amazon, that means that the publisher is paying a few pennies more “transport fee” for each download, and buyers have to wait another few milliseconds for the book to download, and all for nothing.

    So except in special cases — basically decorative drop-caps or headers, or in fixed-format books — I’ve generally stopped embedding. I use CSS instead to suggest fonts, always ending with the option “serif,” “san-serif,” “monotype,” or “handwriting.” Here for example is the body text style for an ebook that I did recently:

    Normal {

    font-family: 'Adobe Caslon Pro',Caslon,'Adobe Garamond Pro',Garamond,Palatino,'Times New Roman',Times,Cochin, serif;

    font-size: 12pt;

    line-height: 1.2;

    font-weight: normal;

    font-style: normal;

    text-align: justify;

    text-indent: 2em;

    }

    That way the ereader will use the first option that I give it that it has available — unless the user has stated a different preference, in which case there’s nothing to be done.

    You can turn off font embedding in the dialogue box when you export from InDesign. Go to the “advanced” tab. You’ll see a collection of check boxes labeled “CSS Options”:

    Just uncheck the “Include Embeddable Fonts” box, and InDesign won’t add the fonts to the ebook file. (You can always add them later if you want.)

    The other point to consider is that font licenses don’t usually allow distribution through ebooks — not even free fonts. So by sending the fonts out un-obfuscated, you’re breaking your license agreement and, essentially, pirating the fonts. See this guest post by type designer David Bergsland on Joel Friendlander’s excellent resource for self- and independent publishers, TheBookDesigner.com for more info.

    Mirrored from Stillpoint Blogs.

  • VIDEO: Secret Google lab 'rewards failure'
    Astro Teller, Google X’s “Captain of Moonshots”, tells BBC Newsnight’s David Grossman about the secret laboratory’s approach to rewarding staff failure.
  • Secret Google lab 'rewards failure'
    The secret Google lab that rewards staff failure
  • Last Night
    Last night I put my phone on the kitchen table and went upstairs with my daughter. We both plopped down on her flowery quilt and talked. We talked about the cutest boys in the 2nd grade, the soggy pizza calzone that they served in the cafeteria yesterday, and then I told her about my adventures dodging motorized carts at the grocery store on Seniors’ Day.

    I heard my phone vibrating ferociously on the table. It’s actually louder on vibrate than it is with my ringtone set to deafening decibels and blaring “Axel F” from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack.

    I ignored the noise. I didn’t care what text/email/social media alert waited for me there. I continued to talk with my little girl.

    We played twelve games of Old Maid. She beat me at Uno three times. We read the funniest parts of her favorite Junie B. Jones book. We laughed out loud.

    And then she asked if I would sleep in her bed so we could talk some more and I could tell her funny stories about the “olden days” (the 1980s).

    Instead of coming up with some excuse to sleep in my own soft bed, I happily agreed. I know there will come a time when she’ll be kicking me out of her room instead of inviting me to stay.

    I left my phone on the table for nearly three hours — which is a personal record, unless it is lost or I’m sleeping. It seems that I’m always connected to the world through my phone. As soon as I’m done eating dinner, I reach for it. As the DVR fast forwards through commercials, I reach for it. As I listen to my daughter, I don’t hesitate to mentally leave our conversation and pick it up when it rattles to let me know that someone from the outside world needs my attention.

    But last night, I ignored it when I heard it tumbling around on the kitchen table. I really listened to my little girl’s stories, and I watched her laugh until tears welled up in her eyes when I told her about the time I gracefully plowed through a fence on a Pogo ball. The phone could wait.

    As she was lying close to me in the bed and I ran my fingers through her long blonde hair, she yawned and said, “I had a good time with you tonight, Mama.”

    She needed my attention more than any email, text or Facebook notification.

    And I needed her more than any of those things, too.

    This post was originally published on Whoa! Susannah

  • 'Snowden Effect' Threatens U.S. Tech Industry's Global Ambitions
    Election officials in India canceled a deal with Google to improve voter registration. In China, sales of Cisco routers dropped 10 percent in a recent quarter. European regulators threatened to block AT&T’s purchase of the wireless provider Vodafone.

    The technology industry is being roiled by the so-called Snowden Effect, as disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the extent of American spying worldwide prompt companies to avoid doing business with U.S. firms. The recent setbacks for Google, Cisco and AT&T overseas have been attributed, in part, to the international outcry over the companies’ role in the NSA scandal.

    Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, said criticism over Silicon Valley’s involvement in the government surveillance program was initially limited to European politicians “taking advantage of this moment to beat up on the U.S.”

    “But the reports from the industry are showing that it is more than that,” he added. “This is more than just a flash in the pan. This is really starting to hurt.”

    The impact of the Snowden leaks could threaten the future architecture of the modern Internet. In recent years, computing power has shifted from individual PCs to the so-called cloud — massive servers that allow people to access their files from anywhere.

    The Snowden revelations undermined trust in U.S.-based cloud services by revealing how some of the largest American tech companies using cloud computing — including Google and Yahoo — had their data accessed by the NSA. About 10 percent of non-U.S. companies have canceled contracts with American cloud providers since the NSA spying program was disclosed, according to a survey by the Cloud Security Alliance, an industry group.

    U.S. cloud providers could lose as much as $35 billion over the next three years as fears over U.S. government surveillance prompt foreign customers to transfer their data to cloud companies in other countries, according to a study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

    “If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government, then maybe they won’t trust U.S. cloud providers either,” Neelie Kroes, European commissioner for digital affairs, said last summer after the NSA revelations were made public. “If I am right, there are multibillion-euro consequences for American companies. If I were an American cloud provider, I would be quite frustrated with my government right now.”

    European officials and companies have been especially troubled by the Snowden leaks because European privacy laws are more stringent than those in the United States.

    After documents from Snowden revealed that the NSA had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls, she said Europeans should promote domestic Internet companies over American ones in order to avoid U.S. surveillance. German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has suggested that people who are worried about government spying should stop using Google and Facebook altogether.

    “Whoever fears their communication is being intercepted in any way should use services that don’t go through American servers,” Friedrich said after Snowden leaked the NSA documents.

    Chris Lamoureux, the executive vice president of the company Veriday, told The WorldPost that some of his customers have requested that the company avoid storing their information in U.S.-based data centers, hoping to make it more difficult for the NSA to gain access.

    “They’ve said, ‘We don’t want you to put our data in the U.S. because we’re worried about what we’re seeing and hearing over there right now,'” said Lamoureux, whose Ottawa-based company develops web applications for banks, governments and retailers.

    Some argue that President Barack Obama has added to the tech industry’s troubles abroad by emphasizing how the NSA surveillance program focused on people outside the United States, where most of Silicon Valley’s customers are located.

    “Those customers, as well as foreign regulatory agencies like those in the European Union, were being led to believe that using US-based services meant giving their data directly to the NSA,” journalist Steven Levy wrote in a recent article in Wired magazine.

    Hoping to reassure overseas customers, major tech companies (including AOL, which owns The Huffington Post Media Group) have asked the Obama administration for permission to be more open about how they responded to past requests for data from the U.S. government. They argue the government snooped on their networks without their knowledge. Recent reports based on documents provided by Snowden revealed that the NSA spied on Google and Yahoo customers, unbeknownst to the companies, by secretly tapping cables that connect data centers around the world.

    “The impression is that the tech industry is in league with the U.S. government,” Cate said. “But the industry would like to give the impression that they’re victims of the U.S. government, too.”

    On Wednesday, Microsoft said it would offer customers who are wary about NSA surveillance the ability to store their data outside the United States.

    Meanwhile, some foreign tech companies are trying to capitalize on the distrust between U.S. tech firms and their customers around the world. Swisscom, a cloud provider in Switzerland, is developing a service that would attract customers looking to store data under the country’s strict privacy laws and away “from the prying eyes of foreign intelligence services,” Reuters reported.

    Germany’s three largest email providers have also created a new service, called “Email Made in Germany,” designed to thwart the NSA by encrypting messages through servers located within the country, The Wall Street Journal reported.

    But Cate said that any businesses that try to avoid surveillance by boycotting U.S. tech companies are not really protecting their data from the NSA. After all, intelligence agencies in France and Spain also spied on their own citizens, and passed on that information to the NSA, according to documents from Snowden.

    “It doesn’t make a difference what you do with your data — the NSA is going break into it,” Cate said. “But that doesn’t mean U.S. industry isn’t going to get hurt along the way.”

  • Why Women Should, and Can, Get Past 'Compare and Despair' on Social Media
    Last week, the TODAY show featured a help-a-thon doling out advice on how women can do it all, encouraging viewers to tweet their tips and questions using the hashtag #doingitall. As a mother of two young kids and a scholar of work-life balance and women’s careers, I know that when media promotes the idea that women should be “doing it all,” it has the potential to be anything, but helpful.

    Reinforcing the idea that we should all aspire to be part of a super breed of magical women who have careers, maintain beautiful homes, patiently parent, create home-cooked meals (with vegetables that their kids will actually eat), and even go to the gym, is not only unrealistic, but actively harmful to our overall health and happiness.

    With my colleague Dr. Liz Boyd, I’ve conducted research on how “social comparison” (the act of comparing ourselves to others) impacts feelings of work-family conflict. Not surprisingly, those who engage in more comparison to others feel worse about their work-life balance. Perhaps more surprisingly, these individuals also report worse physical health symptoms and greater intentions to leave their jobs.

    There is a clear price to be paid for comparing ourselves to others and social media makes it exceptionally easy to do so. Given that women are significantly higher users of social media compared to men, it’s also likely that women are doing more of the comparing than their male counterparts.

    So, why do women do this to ourselves? And how can we stop?

    Long before Pinterest and Instagram (and even before the Internet), Leon Festinger proposed his “social comparison” theory in 1954. He argued that human beings have an innate desire to evaluate our own abilities and performance. In the absence of objective information about our performance, we will compare ourselves to others to see how we stack up. Decades of research have provided support for this theory. Given that our modern, complex lives don’t provide much objective feedback about how we’re managing work, family and other responsibilities, we’re stuck relying on others to judge ourselves. But, the comparison process can backfire and cause us to judge ourselves unnecessarily harshly, particularly when we are comparing ourselves to the filtered, perfect images we see on social media — the images women seem particularly drawn to. Perhaps research suggesting that women’s identities are more strongly defined by relationships to others than men’s may provide insight as to why social media is so compelling to us.

    To be sure, men are also subject to the process and perils of social comparison. But, as women continue to define and redefine our roles at home and at work, the impact of social media may be particularly impactful on our so-called fragile self-identities. When women compare themselves to these idealized images, they may feel like they need to “do it all” and drive themselves to exhaustion and frustration seeking perfection. The flip side is that they may feel like these images are so unattainable that they feel hopeless and dejected. Neither extreme is healthy or helpful.

    So, what can be done? Unfortunately, the edict, “Stop comparing yourself to others,” is unlikely to be an effective recommendation to avoid this trap. Rather than fight the inevitable comparisons, there are ways that women can be thoughtful and proactive consumers of social media that are less likely to lead to guilt, frustration and perfectionism.

    Given that we tend to use social comparisons in the absence of objective information, one strategy is to seek out objective criteria that personally define a success work-life balance for us whatever that may look like. Of course, broader cultural efforts to redefine “success” are essential. In the meantime, armed with our own unique definitions of success and objective criteria for measuring it, we can be more resilient in the face of unrealistic images on social media.

    A second strategy for managing social comparisons is to be mindful of who you are comparing yourself to. Comparing your home to that of a home décor blogger is a recipe for feelings of inadequacy. Remember, it’s their job to be perceived as an expert in that topic. There is no reason to hold yourself to that standard. Follow #doingitall with a healthy dose of skepticism. Further, even if the person you’re comparing yourself to isn’t an expert (perhaps a friend on Facebook), remember that you probably aren’t getting the full picture of their successes and struggles. It’s fine to be inspired and motivated by others online, but challenge yourself to also question whether that individual is really the appropriate comparator.

    Finally, be a role model for honesty in social media. Real Simple magazine championed a “Get Real on the Internet” week, which challenged us to post pictures, tweets and status updates that share our real (read: imperfect) selves with the world using the hashtag #rsgetreal.

    Being real doesn’t mean only airing your dirty little secrets, but also celebrating legitimate and hard-won successes in work-life balance. By creating an online community in which women are empowered to share honest images of their lives, we each contribute to a future of more realistic and healthy social comparisons.

  • Proposed Surveillance Reforms Insufficient, Another Finding NSA Program Is Illegal
    What American citizens and Internet users around the world needed to hear from President Obama at his speech on surveillance last week was that they wouldn’t be surveilled without reason and information would not be misused. Unfortunately, they didn’t get that — though the president showed great empathy and understanding of the scope of the problem.

    I attended the speech and was hoping to hear the U.S. would halt its massive collection and analysis of bulk metadata. My tech trade association would have liked President Obama to have at least followed the lead of his appointed review group in certain key areas such as NSA’s subversion of encryption standards.

    The president’s reforms would change the way bulk metadata data is stored — with a third party rather than the government — but such a scheme is fraught with new problems and fails to tighten the legal standards for access. President Obama would limit the searches to two “hops” away from a suspect rather than three and require the NSA to get a judge to sign off on the searches. It’s my opinion, as well as that of a number of judges, that such large collections of metadata give rise to a search under the Fourth Amendment. More to the point, even the President’s review group concluded the metadata program did not play a measurable role in stopping attacks.

    In addition, a report this week from an independent federal privacy watchdog group said the bulk collection is illegal and must end. That report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was issued less than a week after the president’s speech. This latest report will add to the growing debate after a federal judge and the president’s review group also expressed serious misgivings about bulk data collection and other surveillance practices.

    While the board may not have been unanimous in all of their findings, such as the legality of the bulk metadata program, they all agreed there have been no instances where this program has actually prevented a national security threat.

    We in the tech world understand that governments and intelligence agencies around the world are going to want to access to all the data they might possibly ever need. Technology creates and helps cumulate data, and we need to be active in ensuring such data is not misused. Government desire for metadata from phones and Internet records is only a part of what is really being sought. Americans must be a leader in setting high standards for accessing data. I believe we need to honor and advocate for such standards which are exemplified in our First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, when properly applied.

    If we too readily make those values take a backseat to the increasing demand for more information from the national security community, it will create an even worse model in other countries that lack a tradition of citizen privacy protections and standards.

    We have no doubt those assigned to protect U.S. security want more information to do their job better, but that insatiable zeal for more information is where we get into trouble. We are assured that they don’t seek to access this data except in very limited situations, but what many of us don’t fully grasp is that access to information gathered is just the second part of the equation.

    The basic gathering of data and its inherent value is intrusive, erodes our sense of privacy, and creates information power and provides an enduring temptation to use or misuse it. Having this accumulation of data sitting around makes it available for misuse — not just for the U.S. government, but for anyone.

    There are some who excuse our activities by arguing other countries do more and with fewer checks and balances. The fact that others behave worse than than the U.S. does not justify our lowering our standards, but should reinforce the need for us to lead by example, rebuild trust, and use renewed credibility to shape the future in a positive way. A world that evolves in the direction of freedom from excessive government power and control is a world in which we are all safer.

    The U.S.’s reputation as the world’s freest country, leader on Internet freedom, and its ability to grow economically is at stake if we don’t take concrete steps to rein in surveillance.
    Everyone agrees there are real enemies and the U.S. cannot be secure without the capacity to unravel terrorist plots. Many, including our tech trade association, recognize this reality enough to support Section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when used responsibly and with specificity. Where we see problems is when it is interpreted too broadly, opening the floodgate for a wide collection of data and expanding the likelihood of abuse.

    We certainly appreciate that President Obama’s speech showed that he has listened to foreign parties, privacy advocates and industry experts. The President showed an understanding of the problems created by surveillance and offered a thoughtful, empathetic attempt to deal with the issue. But bolder leadership and strong action are required. The reforms announces were insufficient to change the trajectory of surveillance and curtail the potential for abuse.

    We now look to Congress as the renewal of the legal authority to conduct surveillance comes up for discussion in March. Lawmakers need to at least consider reforms like those recommended by the White House’s surveillance review group before they reauthorize any surveillance legislation.

    The American public and our international allies need to demand more robust reforms for themselves and global Internet users. If they do, we hope Congress will respond with courage and vision.

  • Uber Sort Of Regrets (Latest) Horrible Thing It Just Did
    Politics ain’t beanbag, the saying goes, and the ride-arranging-app industry is apparently no dang soft toss, either.

    Demonstrating how the game is played, car-service app Uber used what some might describe as dirty tricks against smaller competitor GetTaxi, aka Gett, in New York City last week, TechCrunch reported on Friday.

    Several Uber employees — allegedly including Uber NYC’s general manager, according to Valleywag — ordered more than 100 rides from Gett cars in just a few days and then canceled them. This created at least some degree of havoc for Gett, while also giving Uber useful information about Gett’s service and drivers.

    In a statement to TechCrunch (which, like HuffPost, is owned by AOL), Uber admitted its New York team may have been a bit overzealous in trying to recruit Gett drivers to jump over to Uber:

    Our local teams can be pretty determined when spreading the word about Uber and how our platform opens up new economic opportunities for drivers. Members of our New York team made requests to generate leads of independent contractors but then immediately canceled seconds later. It was likely too aggressive a sales tactic and we regret the team’s approach to outreach of these drivers. But to be clear there was no time spent by the providers, as the requests were canceled immediately and Uber did pay cancellation fees for these requests. We have messaged city teams to curtail activities that seek lead generation by requesting transportation services.

    That explanation may not satisfy Gett, which told Valleywag’s Sam Biddle that “the company and our counsel are still evaluating” how to respond.

    San Francisco-based Uber is probably the best-known company in its industry, and not always for the right reasons. Several times recently it has incurred the wrath of customers for its “surge pricing,” in which it jacks up the cost of rides just when people need them the most, like on New Year’s Eve and in the middle of massive snowstorms. And it has not always responded to those complaints with the utmost grace.

  • Pair jailed over abusive tweets
    A man and a woman are jailed for sending abusive messages on Twitter to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.
  • At Davos, Tech Giants Square Off Over Online Privacy
    It’s traditional to start off the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland with a panel of Nobel Laureate economists talking about the global economy. This year the high profile opening was about the digital revolution. The speakers were Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T; Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo; Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce; John Chambers, CEO of Cisco; and Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT. The moderator was Forrester Research CEO George Colony.

    The session reflects the theme of Davos, which is that profound political, economic, social and, above all, technological forces are transforming our lives, communities and institutions. Rapidly crossing geographic, gender and generational boundaries, digital technologies are shifting power from traditional hierarchies to networked heterarchies. If you want to know where society is headed, follow the technology.

    Colony started off by asking what technologies had changed the panelists’ lives.

    Benioff surprised the audience by talking about his Fitbit wristband. Explaining that it helped him lose 30 pounds and changed his life, he gave an unsettling example. Michael Dell called him a few days ago asking if Benioff was okay. Dell said “I’m your friend on Fitbit and I see you haven’t worked out for three days.” Dell was right, as Benioff had had a cold. Benioff wondered, ‘what does it mean?’ that people know his heart rate, glucose levels, fitness, or if he has a cold.

    He said his future Philips toothbrush is Wi-Fi based and has GPS. When you go to the dentist, he won’t ask if you brushed. He will log in to your toothbrush account. Soon there will be one trillion connected sensors, and we will be connected in phenomenal new ways. The peace dividend of the cellphone wars is 1.5 billion smartphones today.

    I was tempted to ask him if Michael Dell also knows his dental hygiene habits.

    Peterson said the explosion of bandwidth is hard to describe, and that consumer demand seems insatiable.

    Stephenson said AT&T would be taking its fiber network to one million businesses and households in the next three years. The biggest deployment is fiber to cell sites, and that smartphones are driving automation of the home.

    Chambers from Cisco said 10 billion devices will soon be connected to the Internet. Over the next 10 years this will account for $19 trillion in economic value.

    Ms. Mayer from Yahoo said it’s all about the apps enabling the sharing economy. Last Friday 150,000 people let strangers stay in their homes via airbnb.com. More than 55 percent of people would consider renting out their cars to strangers. The average person checks his or her mobile phone 150 times a day. By the end of this year Yahoo will have more mobile traffic than PC traffic.

    Colony tried to stir the pot by saying that none of the CEOs are from disruptive companies except maybe Salesforce. Everyone disagreed.

    Colony raised the issue of Edward Snowden and the NSA spying revelations (the elephant in the room) posing the question: “What would you say to Obama if he were in the room?”

    Ms. Mayer said she wants transparency, saying companies need to know what data is being collected and how it will be used, and they need to have the rights to tell the public.

    We need to this to re-establish trust with our users. We already have transparency reports for local governments — we want to be able to provide that information to our customers and the public, she said.

    Benioff agreed that we need transparency. Privacy will drive customer choice. Customers will want to know where they have their data and what’s done with it. Vendors need to also provide complete transparency themselves — about what they do with data. Consumers and business want to know everything.

    Peterson, in contrast, said customers can’t have control. We all need national security.

    I listened to this discussion closely, because I think transparency is essential. I’ve been writing about this for 15 years. In the past we only worried about Big Brother governments assembling detailed dossiers about us. Then came what privacy advocates called Little Brother — corporations that collect data from their customers.

    Companies such as Amazon want to know more and more about what makes each of us tick – our motivations, behavior, attitudes, and buying habits. The good news is that they can use this intimate knowledge to give us highly customized services. The bad news is that once these digital mirror images are compiled they are rarely, if ever, deleted. They can be used inappropriately and even end up being sold to third parties.

    Now there is a new unexpected threat — ourselves. Call it Baby Brother. With the meteoric rise of social media, we are increasingly willing accomplices in undermining our own privacy rights. Before Facebook arrived, who would have predicted that hundreds of millions of people would voluntarily log on to the Internet and record detailed minute-by-minute data about themselves, their activities, their likes and dislikes, and so on?

    Ultimately, in order to properly protect privacy, all of us will need to be vigilant about our own online behavior.

    I left the room encouraged about the explosive growth of the digital revolution but concerned about whether leaders of the industry are prepared to step up to the tough social issues. Other writers at the meeting trumpeted the high tech leaders’ challenge to Obama about the NSA spying.

    Personally I wish one of them had said something to the effect: “The digital revolution has numerous dark side issues that need to be managed, one of them being the potential destruction of everything that we’ve come to know as our right to privacy. We need our governments to be defenders of this and other basic rights rather than the problem.”

    A version of this piece previously appeared in the GlobeandMail.com

    Don Tapscott is CEO of the think-tank Tapscott Group, and Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. He is the author of 14 books most recently (with Anthony D. Williams) MacroWikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet. @dtapscott

  • Foxconn tests prototypes for sapphire-covered iPhones
    Foxconn recently finished assembling at least 100 prototype iPhones with sapphire-covered displays, says Taiwanese publication Apple Daily. The phones were built as part of a testing effort, and are said to have been assembled at a factory in the Longhua district of Shenzhen, China. Success has two-fold significance, because sapphire adds to the complexity of manufacturing, and it suggests that Apple will indeed use the material for future displays, replacing Corning’s Gorilla Glass.

        



  • Gmail Glitch Caused Thousands Of Emails To Go To One Man's Account
    In a glitch apparently related to the massive Gmail outage underway right now, there’s an odd bug in Google search which is pointing users directly to his personal email address. The address appears in a “Compose” window that pops up when the top search result for Gmail is clicked. Yes, it’s bizarre. Very, very bizarre.
  • 5 Non-Negotiable Rules for Responsible Media Use for Parents and Kids
    As parents, our job is to teach our children to be productive citizens in the world, to impart our values and to keep them safe. Most of us know that this job applies to the world we grew up in, the offline world, but sometimes we forget that many everyday parenting lessons also apply to the online world. Below are recommendations I share with parents when I give talks at schools.

    1. The most important thing every adult who wants to show children adaptive ways to behave with this virtual medium can do is to model good behavior. This means think about your media use, and what your children see you doing. So think about it next time you parent and text at the same time. They are watching and learning from us all of the time.

    2. Find times when the whole family has no devices — dinner table, walks to school, hikes, sport games, the most important thing is that they learn there are times that are screen free — and that it is essential to build these into our day… Of course it’s challenging because many adults use devices for their work, but by having a device-free time, you are showing children that family time and face-to-face time are to be valued.

    3. Pick your battles. If you don’t want your teens to unfriend you, don’t ask about every transgression and let a few things slide. If you question or complain about every media habit you don’t approve of, they will tune out. Try actually saying a few positive things a day about their media use. Then maybe they won’t roll their eyes next time you tell them to take a break.

    4. Live where they live. Remember, it’s not just about social media… it’s also about what they’re watching and reading and listening to. Check the ratings (Common Sense Media is an amazing source for comprehensive information) or ask them to check the ratings; if you let them watch something a bit ahead of their time, watch it with them, and ask them to talk to you about it so you can learn how they are processing the messages.

    5. Look for teachable moments in the real world. In other words, you can use things that happen in real life to create stories that may resonate for teens. Bring them up in conversation, not when you are lecturing them on something they did wrong. Often kids’ ears will perk up when they hear these stories. I knew my kids were listening when they took the stories I told them and used them in their current event updates at school.

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