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Recent blog posts

google cloud beta logoGoogle has released the beta version of its Cloud Console app for Android on the Google Play store.

The tool allows those who rely on Google's hosting and virtualising service to manage the Google Cloud Platform from an Android smartphone or tablet.

The Google Cloud Platform is a group of cloud-based products that enable developers to create websites, applications and other solutions.

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The Nextdoor App Is Making My Neighborhood Safer

My neighborhood is experiencing a crime wave. Just on my block in the last week, several packages were stolen from doorsteps and tires have been slashed on at least two cars. I found all of this out from an app that's quickly becoming our neighborhood's best security system. "I heard it from Fred two doors down" is being replaced by "I saw it on Nextdoor."

Nextdoor is a location-based social network meant to connect neighbors. By signing up and giving your address, you're placed in a "neighborhood" of users who live in your immediate vicinity. Its intended uses, according to a promotional video, are to borrow a ladder or find a babysitter. In my neighborhood, probably more than half of the Nextdoor posts are about crime.

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TIM COOK, WHOM I HAVE NEVER MET, seems to be a very decent man. He does a lot for charity, he talks a lot of honest sense, and he does a lot for the shareholders of a company called Apple.

The news that he will retire one day was a terrible shock to me. It came buried away in reports that Cook is planning to donate his huge wealth to charity, something that other CEOs are doing, and was mixed in with some fluff about how great it is to be a good man and to look after people.

Hidden among all this good-vibe, hippy-happy, joy-joy stuff was the bitter pill, the bad oyster in the bunch, the bruised banana. Cook will one day retire from Apple.

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An anonymous reader writes: During the past two days, popular code hosting site GitHub has been under a DDoS attack, which has led to intermittent service interruptions. As blogger Anthr@X reports from traceroute lists, the attack originated from MITM-modified JavaScript files for the Chinese company Baidu's user tracking code, changing the unencrypted content as it passed through the great firewall of China to request the URLs github.com/greatfire/ and github.com/cn-nytimes/. The Chinese government's dislike of widespread VPN usage may have caused it to arrange the attack, where only people accessing Baidu's services from outside the firewall would contribute to the DDoS. This wouldn't have been the first time China arranged this kind of "protest."
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HTC design chief Jonah Becker is leaving the Taiwanese phone maker — the second person in his position to do so in the past year.

Becker assumed the phone design helm last year, following the exit of Scott Croyle, who is now at startup NextBit.

“It’s been an amazing seventeen year journey with One & Co and HTC, but it’s time for a new adventure,” Becker said on Twitter. “Stay tuned for details of what’s next.”

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This Checklist Makes Sure Your Next Meeting is Productive One

No one likes wasting time in meetings, but it happens. To spend your time more efficiently, it helps to have a plan in place. Use this checklist to make sure your next meeting is more productive.

The folks at Harvard Business Review (HBR) created a thorough "Meeting Preparation Checklist" that includes a series questions you should ask before scheduling a meeting. The image above offers a sample of some of these questions.

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The U.K.'s Court of Appeal has denied Google's request to block lawsuits from British consumers over the search giant's disregard for Safari privacy restrictions designed to prevent advertisers from tracking users.

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"These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial," the Court said in its judgement, according to the BBC. "They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature...about and associated with the claimants' internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused."

The case stems from 2012 allegations that Google intentionally bypassed Safari's default privacy settings, which restrict websites from setting cookies unless the user has interacted with those sites directly. Google skirted this limitation by amending its advertising code to submit an invisible form on behalf of the user — without their consent — thus allowing tracking cookies to be set.

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Posted by on in Wired.com

I’m sorry to say that this will be my last post at Zoologic. It’s been a pleasure bringing you the weirdest and most intriguing animal news, and I’ll miss writing here. I want to thank Wired for providing me with this forum that allowed me to explore the latest in animal behavior and cognition. It’s been a wonderful two years since I published my first post and an experience that I truly cherished.

Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates on my writing elsewhere. You can also subscribe to my website to get notified when I publish a new story.

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Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer turned 40 last month. He (just barely) blew out a row of 40 candles during a mini-celebration at company headquarters, and Mark Zuckerberg posted a video to, yes, Facebook. “Schrep,” as friends and colleagues call him, could share his huffing and puffing with anyone who wasn’t there.

But what he really wants to do is share the moment in three dimensions, not just two. When friends and family view that video over the net, he wants them to step inside Mark Zuckerberg’s conference room as the candles go out, not just watch on a phone.

That was the upshot of Schroepfer’s keynote on Thursday at Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Francisco. Like Zuckerberg the day before, he teased the idea of combining Facebook with the sort of virtual reality offered by Oculus, the startup Zuckerberg and company acquired last year.

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Google has taken another small step to integrating its custom maps feature into its main Maps app. User-created maps can now be viewed in the Android Maps app, but can't, unfortunately, be edited. Creating and editing maps can only be done via the web or in the standalone My Maps app. Here, users can place custom markers, group them into different layers, plot routes, and share maps for collaborative editing. It's not a well-known feature but it's a useful one; handy for planning holidays and business trips.

handy for holidays and business trips

Google's custom maps have always been a bit neglected. The feature has been bounced around from place to place in the company's mapping portfolio, briefly appearing under the title "Google Maps Engine Lite" before being rebranded to My Maps. Now, however, it looks like Google might be slowly integrating custom maps into its primary Maps offering. A safe home at last? Let's see.

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It's another tech-filled week, but this one is just a little more British than usual. International visitor Tom Warren joins Nilay, Dieter, and Sam to discuss the release of the Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One M9, Facebook's chat ambitions, and the release of Periscope.

Where's the video feed? Sorry, for the time being we're focusing on just making a great audio podcast. We'll still do live video for the recording and we'll make the call on the video feed later, but for now please subscribe to the audio podcast. But if you want to watch the video replay, you can check it out below.

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Just How Long Is NASA's Opportunity Rover Going to Last?

In 2004, NASA landed its Opportunity rover on Mars. Initially intended to run for 90 days, it's now spent 11 years trundling around the planet. At this rate, it'll still be roaming around on the red rust by the time we terraform the place.

Or, as Randall Munroe's moueover text on today's XKCD imagines, it could all end badly:

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CHINESE COMPANY HUAWEI can sleep sound in the knowledge that its kit is considered unthreatening enough to be sold and used in the UK.

The firm is led by an ex-Chinese army man. In the US, where China is a cyber boogeyman, the firm would probably have bargepole status. China is regularly fingered as a source of cyberthreats.

In the UK, Huawei has come in for some delayed scrutiny. Two years ago, when its gear was already in use and deeply entrenched in the UK, someone decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to check the firm out and make sure that it's a suitable partner.

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An anonymous reader sends word that Amazon is now offering unlimited cloud storage plans to compete with Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. "Last year, Amazon gave a boost to its Prime members when it launched a free, unlimited photo storage for them on Cloud Drive. Today, the company is expanding that service as a paid offering to cover other kinds of content, and to users outside of its loyalty program. Unlimited Cloud Storage will let users get either unlimited photo storage or "unlimited everything" — covering all kinds of media from videos and music through to PDF documents — respectively for $11.99 or $59.99 per year."
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WEB WATCHER Akamai has released its latest report on the internet and has tagged China as the most prolific global source of attack traffic, and South Korea as having the best speeds.

The State of the Internet Q4 2014 report [PDF] fingered the glorious Chinese nation as the source of 40 percent of bad traffic. The US comes a distant second with 13 percent.

Akamai said that just under a third of all attacks were directed at Telnet Port 23. Denial of service attacks such as the ones on Facebook and Instagram increased quarter over quarter, and Akamai said that its customers reported 327 incidents during the quarter.

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About a year ago, when we switched to default HTTPS, we pointed out that one of the major reasons why other news sites refused to do the same was that most ad networks would not support HTTPS. In fact, we had to end a number of relationships with ad partners in order to make the move (but we felt it was worth it). In fact, the really crazy part was that many of the ad network partners we spoke to clearly had absolutely no clue about HTTPS, what it was and why it's important. But, over the past year, more and more attention has been placed on the value and importance of encrypting web traffic, so it's great to see that the internet ad industry is starting to wake up to this, even if it's pretty late in the process.

The Internet Advertising Bureau -- the IAB -- the main standards-setting board for the internet ad industry has released a statement saying that it's time for the internet advertising world to embrace HTTPS:

It’s time to talk about security.

In fact, last year was the time to talk about security. From The New York Times to Google, the call went out for websites to encrypt communications with their users, protecting the integrity and privacy of information exchanged in both directions. Even the U.S. government heard this call, and is working to require HTTPS delivery of all publicly accessible Federal websites and web services.

This year, the advertising industry needs to finish catching up. Many ad systems are already supporting HTTPS - a survey of our membership late last year showed nearly 80% of member ad delivery systems supported HTTPS. That’s a good start, but doesn’t reflect the interconnectedness of the industry. A publisher moving to HTTPS delivery needs every tag on page, whether included directly or indirectly, to support HTTPS. That means that in addition to their ad server, the agency ad server, beacons from any data partners, scripts from verification and brand safety tools, and any other system required by the supply chain also needs to support HTTPS.

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Facebook's ambitious plan to bring internet to the entire world with a fleet of broadband-beaming unmanned aerial vehicles has taken a step closer to fruition. The company's vice president of engineering, Jay Parikh, told The Wall Street Journal that Facebook is planning "a real test flight" of its solar-powered internet drone this summer. A smaller version of the drone, one tenth the size of the planned product, was tested earlier this month.

The scheduled test flight would be the first time the full-sized internet drone — called Aquila — will take to the skies. Facebook says the vehicle will have the wingspan of a commercial passenger jet and the length of "six or seven [Toyota] Priuses," but will only weigh as much as four car tires. The lightweight build should help the craft stay flying for weeks, months, or years at a time, using solar energy to keep itself aloft. Google, also in the process of developing its own internet-proliferation project, is using a different approach. The company's Project Loon uses a swarm of balloons to disseminate broadband to unconnected portions of the world.

The technology to build the Aquila drone didn't exist a year ago

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Posted by on in CNET

android-tattoo.jpgNo, it's not a character from a sci-fi show. It's just a guy with an awesome tattoo. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

We might not yet have androids roaming around covered in cool carbon-fiber-matrix skin, but there's nothing stopping us from pretending that we do. And that's kind of what this man in the UK can now do thanks to this amazing tattoo that makes him look like he's part multilayered machine.

The tattoo was created by Tony Booth, who owns runs Dabs Tattoo in Southport, England, along with his wife Lisa.

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festo1.jpg Festo

The family of animal robots created by German robotics company Festo is growing. As part of its Bionic Learning Network, the company has introduced two new robots: a swarm of ants that can operate cooperatively, and a butterfly robot that leverages the insect's lightness.

The ant robots -- called BionicANTS -- are not just inspired by the insect's physical body, but by its swarm intelligence.

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Apple on Thursday announced it will officially open three international Apple Watch store-within-a-store locations on April 10, offering customers shopping at high-end department stores the chance to try on and preorder the device before it goes on sale.

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Dubbed simply "Apple Watch," the upcoming retail shops are popping up at locations previously known to be undergoing construction for Apple's wearables effort, including Selfridges in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Isetan in Toyko. All three department stores cater to upper crust clientele.

As with Apple Stores, Apple Watch outlets will be manned by Apple retail staff, who will field questions and help pair customers with their desired model. It appears that Geniuses are not part of the deal, however, as Apple's regional retail webpages direct visitors to nearby Apple Store locations for product support inquiries.

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I'll miss the Cuban embargo. The easing of relations that it brings with it will likely mean the end of the 1950s-style spy games and crazy plots -- like the CIA plot designed to make a leader's beard fall out. Instead, we've finally decided that the United States is open for Cuban business. And you know what that means: trademark lawsuits!
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a Cuban state-owned company and refused to intervene in a dispute over the “Cohiba” trademark. This is the most recent development in the long-standing rivalry between General Cigar Co Inc., an American (and Scandinavian) company, and Cubatabaco, a Cuban company.
How fun! We finally open up the borders for some business with Cuba and one of the Castro companies decides it's trademark time! Keep in mind, of course, that the state that owns Cubatabaco is a communist nation, but not so communist that they'll refuse to use our capitalist tools to make that money. This dispute actually goes back nearly two decades, with Cubatabaco originally filing a trademark claim in 1997, which was eventually tossed in 2005 by the Second Circuit court, finding that any transfer of property, including a trademark, to a Cuban company would violate the embargo.

But now that the embargo is gone, Cubatabaco has refiled, with a lower court ruling that the Cuban company could challenge General Cigar's mark with the USPTO even before the embargo was lifted -- a ruling the Supreme Court has refused to send back for review. So there appears to be nothing standing in the way of a trademark challenge.

All that said, it's difficult to see how valid a challenge is, actually, given several factors. First, the two companies as yet don't compete in the same markets, due to the legacy of the embargo. Second, the word "cohiba" might not deserve a trademark held by anyone, given that it is simply a foreign word that means "tobacco" in Taino, a language of the Caribbean. That would be like getting a trademark on your beer brand, Cerveza.

However this turns out, welcome officially to business in the States, Cuba! Now that the embargo doesn't keep property from transfering your way, it's all trademark, patents and copyright from here on out!

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cleanreader1.jpg Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

According to a new Android and iOS e-reader app, the definition of "strong language" is somewhat broad. Clean Reader, developed by husband and wife team Jared and Kirsten Maughan after their teenage daughter expressed dismay over some cuss words in a book she read, is designed to keep users who hate naughty words from having to see them. Its tag line: "Read books, not profanity."

How it works is that you load your ebook into the app via iTunes; you can then select one of three filter levels, from mild censorship to the full monty; and the app does a find-and-replace using a database of offensive words selected by the Maughans, replacing them with "clean" versions.

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Posted by on in Gizmodo

This Smartwatch Ditches Apps For Great Design

In a post-iPhone world, saying that apps are useless will probably get you beheaded in the startup community. But the (brave) designers behind Olio, a gorgeous new smartwatch with a minimalist feature set are saying exactly that.

Olio is a company that's been in stealth ('not actually selling anything') mode for a while now. It's led by Steve Jacobs, a former Apple and HP designer — so it's not just another random Kickstarter. And it's selling a promise of a simple smartwatch without apps.

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Posted by on in Slashdot

I think at this point everyone agrees that the STEM job market in the US is screwed up. Right now we're all pointing fingers at eachother blaming millennials, gen X, baby boomers, immigrants, business owners, politicians, civil servants, the whole government, high schools, colleges, testing services, misogynists, political correctness, investors, people who don't invest, Obama, Bush...

Anyone have any ideas on what to do about it? How about we work on that now.

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Authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli visited the Apple Store SoHo in New York on Thursday to read selections from their hotly anticipated biography "Becoming Steve Jobs" and field questions from what quickly became a packed house.

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Crown Publishing via Twitter

Schlender and Tetzeli were featured guests of the SoHo Apple Store's meet and greet series that brings in notable authors, filmmakers, musicians and more to talk about their latest projects. Events are free and open to the public, though some presentations with high profile participants require reservations.

Apple's venue completely filled up for today's discussion, which had the authors reading snippets from the book and answering questions from audience members. Some latecomers were left standing in the aisles, according to people who attended.

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Apple's new MacBooks, announced earlier this month, have been upgraded with force-sensitive trackpads. Using the awkwardly named "Force Touch" technology, the pads can tell how hard you are pressing, allowing Apple to replace the old three-finger tap with a new powerfully pressed "Force Click." But the new tech doesn't just let Apple offer more menu options — other app developers can use the increased fidelity of the new trackpads too. Drawing app Inklet becomes the first piece of third-party software to make use of the new technology.

Users can press harder for thicker lines

Inklet users will be able to use a stylus on their 2015 MacBook trackpads to manipulate and draw over images on screen. Users can highlight the section of the image they want to work on in a shape that corresponds to the trackpad itself. Drawing normally creates a light stroke, but more pressure makes for thicker lines, allowing the stylus to work like a digital paintbrush. For fine detail, you'll be able to resize the highlighted area, zooming in to add tiny details or out to create broad brushstrokes.

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SpzToid sends word that the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers discrimination case wrapped up yesterday. No matter what the outcome turns out to be, it has already effected how business is being done in Silicon Valley. "'Even before there's a verdict in this case, and regardless of what the verdict is, people in Silicon Valley are now talking,' said Kelly Dermody, managing partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who chairs the San Francisco law firm's employment practice group. 'People are second-guessing and questioning whether there are exclusionary practices [and] everyday subtle acts of exclusion that collectively limit women's ability to succeed or even to compete for the best opportunities. And that's an incredibly positive impact.' Women in tech have long complained about an uneven playing field — lower pay for equal work, being passed over for promotions and a hostile 'brogrammer' culture — and have waited for a catalyst to finally overhaul the status quo. This trial — pitting a disgruntled, multimillionaire former junior partner against a powerful Menlo Park, Calif., venture capital firm — was far from the open-and-shut case that many women had hoped for. More gender discrimination suits against big tech firms are expected to follow; some already have, including lawsuits against Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc."
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Posted by on in Techdirt
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Posted by on in Lifehacker

The Ocean Waves Home Screen

It may still be chilly in most parts of the country, but if you long for the summer days of ocean fun, this home screen will get you in the mood.

Like many home screen themes, this is available as a one-click install for Themer, but you can also put it together yourself using Nova Launcher, Zooper Widget Pro, and Tasker. To install the Themer theme:

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Google said it would pay its new chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, more than $70 million in the next two years through a combination of restricted stock units and a biennial grant.

The company hired Morgan Stanley CFO Porat as its finance chief earlier this week, a sign it is aiming to rein in costs as it invests in new businesses such as self-driving cars and Internet-connected eyeglasses.

Porat’s compensation package includes a grant of $25 million through restricted stock units, a $40 million biennial grant in 2016 and a special one-time $5 million sign-on bonus, Google said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

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