Monthly Archives April 2016

Cloud Services Keeping Apple Afloat

apple logoApple’s having a rough time financially –the company saw its first decline in revenue in over a decade this quarter. iPhone sales have dropped 18 percent, iPad 19 percent and Mac nine percent. But every cloud has a silver lining, and Apple’s cloud could be keeping it afloat.

Apple’s cloud services include the App Store and Apple Music, areas in which revenue has jumped 20 percent to $6 billion. The only thing ahead of it is “Other Products” which include Apple TV, Apple Watch, Beats and other such products. To put the success of Apple’s cloud services in perspective, it beat Facebook’s overall quarterly revenue of $5.8 billion of Q4 2015.

The only hindrance to Apple’s cloud business is that it revolves around people using its software. And although Apple has sold now over a billion devices – a landmark they hit in 2016 – it still doesn’t give them the same access as Microsoft, which will sell its services to anybody.

*Source: Light Reading

App Allows You to Delete Texts From Recipients’ Phones

walking and textingEveryone has sent a text they almost immediately regret – you know, the kind of thing you would never say in person? Now you can delete them from the recipient’s phone before they read it. Introducing the new app Privates, which allows users to recall messages of any kind, as long as they haven’t been opened yet.

The app allows you to select from three levels of security , Mild, Wild and Insane, which determine after how long messages are deleted – after three, 12 or 24 hours.

Privates was created by Dr. Isaac Datikashvili, who said “We originally going to call it ‘Private’ or ‘Keep Your Messaging Private’ and we didn’t really think about what it meant when we added the ‘s’. It’s only when someone mentioned the double-meaning of the privates that we realized.” Oops.

As of now, Privates is only available on iOS, but the Windows and Android versions of the app are in progress.

*Source: Metro UK

Spotify User Information Posted Online

SpotifyHundreds of Spotify accounts were compromised when a list containing personal details was posted on Pastebin last weekend. The list includes vulnerable information such as passwords, email addresses, username and account type. Thankfully, payment information was not revealed.

Although Spotify maintains the “records of the users are safe,” users themselves are more concerned. Some noticed playlists on their accounts they did not create and others had unfamiliar tracks in their “recently played” tab. Most worrisome, some users have even been locked out of their accounts.

All this occurred within the same frame of time as the records being posted online, leaving a rather obvious correlation. It’s not the first time this has happened: last November, more than 1,000 Spotify email logins and passwords were hacked, making their information public and locking users out of their accounts for three days.

Clearly Spotify, like other web-based services, will have to work to upgrade its security and protect the privacy of its users. In the meantime, change your Spotify password if you’ve been hacked or not, just to be safe.

*Source: Tech News Today

Facebook Messenger Introduces Conference Calling

Facebook MessengerFacebook Messenger calling is a useful tool, but it has always been limited to one-on-one conversations. Now, Messenger has launched a group-call feature that can include up to 50 people. Like the rest of Messenger, this service is free with the latest update.

Group calls work the same way as regular Facebook calls, except users have the option to join a call still in progress if they cannot join at the beginning. Facebook will also provide a list of people involved in the call, helping to avoid the inevitable confusion that comes along with having dozens of people on a call.

This is a big perk for Messengers’ 900 million active users, but is also proof social media is moving toward voice and video interactions over instant messaging. Google Hangouts, a less popular competitor to Messenger, already has group call features.

*Source: Tech Times

Viber Bringing Powerful Encryption to 700M People

Viber-LogoCommunication app Viber is following in the footsteps of WhatsApp and making end-to-end encryption default for its 700 million user base. That means every text message, photo, and whatever else you can share on Viber will be protected. And because it is not an American company, it’s not subject to U.S laws.

End-to-end encryption means not even the Viber itself can see what’s passing between users once they update their software to Viber 6.0. Basically, the sooner users do that, the sooner their personal conversations are completely protected. This will take some time, as many people are either slow or hesitant to update their applications. However, even if only 10 percent of Viber users make the update, it will encrypt a group of users larger than the United Kingdom.

The decision for Viber and WhatsApp to encrypt their user-base comes after the Apple-FBI controversy over the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone. The incident has sparked a debate amongst the tech community over which is more important in the digital age; privacy or security? Clearly WhatsApp and Viber have chosen the former.

In a Wired article, Viber’s COO Michael Shmilov says that the encryption is “not necessarily a marketing feature. We did it because it’s a standard we need to meet. Users share a lot of private data between them, and we want to make sure it’s secure.”

He argues that messaging apps are a central part of life now, and that users should have a fun experience with them without feeling like Big Brother is watching.

Amazon Prime Steps Up Streaming Game

amazon-prime-logoNetflix rules the video streaming landscape with easy access and critically acclaimed original content. But another company has its eyes on the prize: Amazon hopes to stir up the marketplace by offering a monthly subscription exclusively to its Prime Video service.

Before now, if you wanted to stream Amazon content like Transparent or Mozart in the Jungle you needed a $99 Amazon Prime membership, which includes free express shipping and music streaming in addition to the video services. But in an effort to compete with Netflix, Amazon is changing its model to mirror it.

It will cost users $8.99 a month for access to Prime Video, or $10.99 a month for all Prime services.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney has spoken about Amazon’s decision, calling it “a significant development for Netflix.”

“Amazon certainly has the brand name, the customer relationships, and the focus on high-quality consumer experiences to impact the growth in Netflix’s U.S. subscriber base, and perhaps eventually its global subscriber base,” he was quoted as saying in a Los Angeles Times article.

Visa to Speed Up Chip Processing

visaVisa knows we’re not a patient bunch, which is why the credit card giant is taking steps to make chip-and-PIN processing faster, aiming to cut  processing time at the terminal to two seconds or less.

A recent study showed the average processing time is 10 seconds, a substantial increase from the two to three seconds it took to process a card using the magnetic stripe. Visa has already started talks with terminal manufacturers, but the hardware itself isn’t the only factor at play – connection speeds also play a role in processing times.

“There’s been a lot of interest in what we can do to improve the transaction speed,” Visa’s vice president of risk products, Stephanie Ericksen, was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg article. “The key difference will be you can insert your card, leave it in the terminal for a split second and remove the card rather quickly, rather than waiting for the entire transaction to complete.”

In total, American consumers have 265 million Visa credit and debit cards in their wallets. About 20 percent of Visa’s merchant locations have upgraded terminals to process chip cards, which were introduced to the U.S. market in 2015.

AMC Won’t Allow Texting in Movie Theaters After All

texting in movie theaterWhen we caught wind that AMC was considering allowing texting in its movie theatres, we knew nothing was sacred anymore. Thankfully, it appears the plan that execs thought would appeal to millennials has fallen flat: AMC has announced it is dropping the concept before it even got off the ground.

According to a PC Mag article, the company hoped to allow texting in a way that would not disturb other patrons. Angry masses quickly discounted the idea online, leading to its speedy demise.

“We have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want,” AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron wrote in a note on AMC’s Twitter account. “With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC theaters. Not today, not tomorrow, and not in the foreseeable future.”

It was a close call but we’re glad to see some things are still right in this world.

Wearable Tech Just Reached a New Level

ea_7294.3624d4b5You’ve always wanted your clothing to connect to your devices, right? Be prepared for that day to come soon. Researchers at Ohio State University have developed embroidered antennas and circuits which are just the right size to integrate electronic components like sensors and computer memory devices. Basically, they’ve created the tech to will allow our clothing to monitor our fitness levels, or act as antennas for our smartphones and tablets.

Wearable electronics have been popularized lately with the rise of the smartwatch, but will be expanding even further with this new research.

“A revolution is happening in the textile industry. We believe that functional textiles are an enabling technology for communications and sensing and one day, even for medical applications like imaging and health monitoring,” Ohio State University research leader John Volakis, was quoted as saying in a I4U Story.

Like Volakis said, this development has the potential to modernize not only the health industry, but athletics as well. Imagine equipment that monitors performance and bandages that relay healing progress to a doctor.

Volakis’ team has named these clothes “e-textiles.” They used a common tabletop sewing machine to create them. Instead of traditional thread, the e-textiles use fine silver metal wire that feels the same as regular thread when worked into clothing.

Verizon Rolls Out Fiber in Boston

verizonVerizon Wireless and Boston announced plans Tuesday for a $300 million fiber upgrade, replacing copper cables over a six year period. This will bring faster internet to the city’s 650,000 residents, as well as expand broadband. This is all a part of Mayor Marty Walsh’s initiative to ensure every resident has online access by connecting businesses, schools, hospitals and libraries.

But connectivity isn’t the only thing Verizon is up to in Boston. It’s also running a trial to reduce traffic congestion alone Massachusetts Avenue by experimenting with sensors in traffic signals. It is also attaching wireless equipment to street lights and utility poles with the goal of boosting wireless service for residents. If these trials are successful, and the city of Boston benefits from the upgrades, Verizon may expand the project to other cities.

Boston residents will be able to register online to request fiber optic connections, allowing for prioritization. Communities like Dorchester, West Roxbury and Dudley Square will be among the first Verizon intends on upgrading.

*Source: Computer World