Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

07.25
15

Google removes ‘porn clicker’ malware from its Play Store

by admin ·

The fake apps visit porn sites in order to click on ads

Google has removed dozens of apps from its Play Store that purport to be games but secretly click on advertisements on pornographic websites.

Security company Eset found 51 new apps that contained the “porn clicker” component, which it first discovered in April in a fake app mimicking a video app called Dubsmash.

Over the last three months, some 60 fake apps have been downloaded 210,000 times, showing how common it is for users to stumble across and download them.

“Following ESET’s notification, Google has pulled the malware from the Play Store and also reports some of them as potentially harmful applications using its built-in security service,” wrote Lukas Stefanko, an Eset malware researcher.

The bogus apps do not try to steal authentication credentials. If downloaded, the application presents itself as game or system application. It runs in the background and accesses porn websites and clicks on ads. The app could eat up data allowances on a person’s mobile phone account.

Google scans apps uploaded to its Play Store using technology called Bouncer. The automated scan checks an app for five minutes, performing a dynamic analysis of its code, according to Trend Micro. But apps that do not misbehave in that time period may not be caught.

Although Google can catch malicious apps, malware authors have become more clever in finding ways to avoid Bouncer, which has apparently happened with the porn clicker applications.

This time around, bogus versions of Dubsmash were uploaded again along with fake versions of other legitimate apps including Pou 2, Clash of Clans 2, Subway Surfers 2, Subway Surfers 3, Minecraft 3, Flappy Birds and Hay Day 2. The harmful apps were available for almost a week.

Since it’s hard for users to see if an app is malicious, Eset recommended that people pay close attention to the reviews of apps, which may provide a clue if a particular app is suspicious.

“Hopefully, Google is doing its best to fix this issue and find a way to prevent the developers of these porn clickers from publishing them to the Play Store,” Eset wrote.


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06.1
15

Google Android developer advocate: everyone’s doing networking wrong

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Google developer advocate Colt McAnlis said that Android apps, almost across the board, are not architected correctly for the best networking performance, during a talk he gave Friday at Google’s I/O developer conference in San Francisco.

“Networking performance is one of the most important things that every one of your apps does wrong,” he told the crowd.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: Enterprise tech a no-show at Google I/O + Google hypes Android M, Android Pay, Google Photos at I/O 2015 +

By structuring the way apps access the network inefficiently, McAnlis said, developers are imposing needless costs in terms of performance and battery life – costs for which their users are on the hook.

“Bad networking costs your customers money,” he said. “Every rogue request you make, every out-of-sync packet every two-bit image you request, the user has to pay for. Imagine if I went out and told them that.”

The key to fixing the problem? Use the radio less, and don’t move so much data around, McAnlis said.

One way to do this is batching, he said – architecting an app such that lower-priority data is sent when a device’s networking hardware has been activated by something else, minimizing the amount of time and energy used by the radio.

Pre-fetching data is another important technique for smoothing out network usage by Android apps, he said.

“If you can somehow sense that you’re going to make six or seven requests in the future, don’t wait for the device to go to sleep and then wake it up again – take advantage of the fact that the chip is awake right now, and make the requests right now,” McAnlis said.

He also urged developers to use Google Cloud Messaging, rather than relying on server polling for updates.

“Polling the server is horrible. … It is a waste of the user’s time,” McAnlis said. “Think about this: Every time you poll the server and it comes back with a null packet, telling you that there’s no new data, the user’s paying for that.”


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03.29
15

Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: A comparison of cloud tools

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While Google for Work and Microsoft Office 365 offer many similar services, choosing between the two can be a significant challenge for CIOs. This comparison eases that burden.

CIOs and IT managers have many choices when it comes to cloud-based productivity tools for email, documents, calendar and file-sharing. The first two options that come to mind for most, however, are Google Apps for Work and Office 365.

The former packs all the familiarities of the Google Apps suite, including Gmail, Hangouts, Drive and Calendar, while the latter comes with the longer legacy of tried-and-true Microsoft Office apps, such as Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. The two options have unique strengths and weaknesses, and each is best-suited for specific types of businesses and users.
Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: Price, simplicity and storage

Both services start at $5 per month. Microsoft requires a full-year commitment, which costs at least $60 per year, while Google’s suite is available on a month-to-month basis. Google also offers a yearly discounted plan for $50 a year, plus tax.

Every Office 365 user gets at least 1TB of cloud storage, while Google’s entry-level plan provides considerably less space: 300MB of online storage per user. However, Google provides unlimited storage for accounts with at least five users on its $10 per month or $120 per year (plus tax) plans.

Google also gets high marks for simplicity, because it offers two relatively straightforward plans.
Microsoft makes things a bit more confusing with six total packages — three for small and medium-size businesses and three for large enterprises — that range in price from $5 to $20 per month, with a yearly commitment.

Pricing is an important determining factor, but equally important for CIOs are the feature sets, security safeguards and user experiences of both platforms. The ideal cloud-based platform is secure, stable and simple for employees to learn and use. Cost is just one of the many concerns IT managers must consider when investing in cloud-based productivity platforms.

Eric Schlissel, CEO of IT consultancy GeekTek IT Services, says his company uses Google for Work, but more often than not he recommends Office 365 to clients because they are already heavily dependent and invested in Microsoft Outlook. Many business owners are reluctant to change the way their offices work, according to Schlissel.

“We tend to recommend Google for Work to clients with a younger and more tech-savvy workforce,” Schlissel says. “CIOs should look at how their employees use technology and work outwards from there.”

Where Google for Work falls short
At Creative Solutions in Healthcare, a company that owns and operates assisted-living facilities, the IT department uses Google for Work while the rest of the company relies on Office 365, according to CIO Shawn Wiora.

“In many ways, Google for Work is a low-cost equivalent of Office 365, and it’s a great fit for startups and small businesses that need to limit costs while achieving ‘good enough’ status,” Wiora says. “However, the cost savings come with a number of nuances that limit its fit for enterprise customers.”

Wiora says there are at least four problems with Google for Work that can add up to a major burden for businesses. He cites “shared calendar issues, an inability to transfer Excel formulas directly into Google Spreadsheets, compatibility issues and vertical-specific decisions like Google’s past refusal to sign a HIPAA BAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Business Associate] agreement for the healthcare industry.”

In Wiora’s his experience, Google’s suite keeps up with Office 365 about 90 percent of the time. It’s that other 10 percent that “makes Google for Work a poor substitute for medium and large enterprises that expect to simply pick up in Google where they leave off with Microsoft.”

BetterCloud, a company that provides security and management services for Google Apps and Office 365, also uses both Google and Microsoft’s offers, according to Tim Burke, BetterCloud’s IT director.

The company primarily uses Google for Work as the sole platform for its corporate calendar and conference room reservation system, but it also provides Office 365 accounts to users who work on its Microsoft-related products.

“We’ve looked into many solutions for coexistence between the two platforms (especially for calendar and contacts), but there’s nothing mature yet that allows Google Apps and Office 365 to ‘play together’ well on a single domain,” Burke says.

Both platforms are enterprise class, with almost identical offerings, according to Burke, who says Google’s suite is becoming more “enterprise” every day.

“Many people don’t realize [Google has] been in this market for over six years at this point, and Google Apps is used by some of the largest organizations in the world,” Burke says. Google’s strengths also include a deeply integrated infrastructure and a simple licensing structure, he says.

Office 365 provides a continuity with legacy solutions that makes it easier to keep everyone happy with the applications they’ve been using for many years, or perhaps decades, but it’s also evolving. “Office 365 is based on Microsoft’s legacy products and is becoming more ‘cloud-enabled’ and easy to manage,” Burke says.

Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: One size does NOT fit all
Many others familiar with Office 365 and Google for Work take a much less neutral stance than Wiora and Burke; both companies have dedicated users and evangelists.

Martin Milanov, a digital marketing specialist at Fair Point, a corporate travel management firm based in Germany, writes that he “will scream to the ends of hell if they take away my Excel and make me use the, let’s face it, subpar Excel wannabe that is Google Sheets.”

Kristin Bassett, corporate marketing manager at AppNeta, an application performance management provider, says her company recently switched from Microsoft to Google to get all employees on the same email system. The firm chose to migrate its entire staff to Google for Work because it preferred Gmail to Outlook and considered email its highest-priority tool.

Many of the engineers working for AppNeta had requested corporate access to Gmail, according to Bassett, and the switch improved the company’s ability to hire and retain engineers, who are core to its business.

Regardless of platform, it’s about preparation

Both Burke and Wiora encourage CIOs to gain a deep understanding of their users’ needs and company goals before deciding on Google for Work or Office 365.

“We’ve worked with thousands of customers across both platforms, and the most successful deployments involved a highly democratic approach where they set up small pilot groups, talked to managers in different departments, discussed pros and cons for both platforms, and generally took the time to make sure they were making the best decision for their users and not for their IT department or existing infrastructure,” says Burke.

For some CIOs, a hybrid approach will work best, according to Wiora. However, using both platforms can also lead to more work and potential problems for IT. “Each new service increases complexity for end users exponentially rather than linearly, so reducing confusion from having information in so many places will be critical for anyone using a hybrid approach,” says Wiora.

Above all, CIOs shouldn’t delay the necessary research and piloting, and they should try to make a decision as quickly as possible, according to Burke. “Whether your organization chooses Google Apps or Office 365, you’re getting a cloud office platform that’s going to fundamentally change the way your business operates if it’s correctly implemented and thoroughly adopted,” he says.


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03.2
15

Update: A mobile payment battle is blazing

by admin ·

All eyes are on Samsung Pay and its embedded LoopPay inside the Galaxy S6 smartphone

Mobile in-store payments could grow dramatically in the U.S. as the result of a battle brewing among tech giants Google, Samsung and Apple.

In the latest development, Samsung today revealed Samsung Pay, a new mobile payment strategy, combined with its new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones. Samsung Pay relies on two technologies: a new magnetic transmission capability from startup LoopPay embedded as a copper ring inside the Galaxy S6 and the older Near Field Communications technology used in earlier Galaxy S smartphones.

The two phones will ship April 10 in 20 countries , including the U.S., but Samsung Pay will not go live until this summer, first in the U.S. and South Korea.

Having both mobile payment technologies embedded inside the Galaxy S6 will allow its users to make purchases at up to 90% of the estimated 12 million payment locations at U.S. stores. That’s because the lion’s share of the older point-of-sale terminals in use in the U.S. still have magnetic stripe card readers which support the new Galaxy S6 technology.

By comparison, Apple Pay and Google Wallet rely on newer NFC-ready terminals, which are gradually being rolled out in the U.S. and should reach about 50% of point-of-sale locations by year’s end, according to estimates by credit and debit card companies. While NFC grows, magnetic technology could help fill the mobile payment gap.

“Samsung Pay certainly heats up the competition, and that’s a good thing for mobile payment adoption,” said Gartner analyst Avivah Litan in an interview. “But Samsung still has a lot of work to do to improve the user experience before it can effectively compete with Apple.”

Informal field tests by Gartner of the magnetic LoopPay technology showed inconsistent performance when used with some magnetic readers on stores’ point-of-sale terminals, Litan said. Gartner used LoopPay’s magnetic technology incorporated inside its earlier phone cases and fobs, not the same technology embedded in the Galaxy S6. Embedding the copper ring inside the Galaxy S6 will hopefully reduce the inconsistent performance, she said, but LoopPay “is definitely not going to work at every magnetic-stripe reader.”

Samsung and Visa were investors in startup LoopPay last summer, and Samsung on Feb. 18 announced it had acquired LoopPay for an undisclosed sum.

MasterCard confirmed that it will support Samsung Pay by deploying tokenization software for both magnetic and NFC transactions. Other credit and debit card companies, such as Visa and American Express, will follow suit with tokenization and will also support Samsung Pay, Samsung said. Major credit card companies and banks have backed Apple Pay with NFC, which rolled out last fall for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and have already widely marketed the concept. Bank of America, Chase, Citi and US Bank are also on board with Samsung Pay, Samsung said.

Google Wallet, which first emerged in 2011, was slow to catch on, but Google on Feb. 23 announced a deal to buy technology and capabilities from SoftCard, another NFC-based mobile payment system. The purchase means that Google Wallet will be pre-installed on new Android phones at Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile later this year.

MasterCard said it agreed to support Samsung Pay with the LoopPay magnetic payment option only after setting up the tokenization security technology to support it. Tokens are crytographs, a kind of code, that are used instead of a customer’s actual credit or debit card number to bolster security, and have been used with NFC payments in Apple Pay and other payment systems.

“Tokenization is how we got comfy with the magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology portion, and we wouldn’t have supported [Samsung Pay] without [tokenization],” said Sherri Haymond, group head of MasterCard channel management.

When a MasterCard customer with a Galaxy S6 ready to make a purchase approaches a point-of-sale terminal equipped to handle either magnetic or NFC payments, the system is set up to give preference to NFC payments, Haymond said in an interview.

“We’re viewing this MST as a bridge technology to enable consumers to take advantage of digital payments while NFC catches on,” she said. “We do believe NFC is the wave of the future.”

Mobile payment adoption is based on a complex set of technologies and business relationships. A major stumbling block in the U.S. has been the conversion of millions of payment terminals at U.S. retailers to more secure technology that supports smart cards and, usually, NFC. In addition to Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Samsung Pay, many experts are watching a consortium of large retailers called MCX that includes WalMart and Best Buy to see how MCX will affect mobile payment rollouts. MCX is not relying on NFC, at least initially, and may or may not support the LoopPay magnetic approach.

“How MCX members respond to Samsung Pay will be fascinating to watch,” said Tim Sloane, an analyst at Mercator Advisory Group. The mobile payment space “is really getting interesting.”

Unlike MCX, Samsung Pay will still rely on credit and debit cards and the banks that extend credit to consumers. Many merchants, including those in MCX, object to paying banks a fee of about 3% per credit-card transaction while also having to update their point-of-sale terminals to support smart cards. Merchants have an Oct. 1 deadline to upgrade their terminals to accept smart cards to avoid financial liability in the event of credit card fraud with older magnetic stripe technologies. Many of the updated terminals, estimated at about 80%, also support NFC payments with smartphones.

The technology changes have been a burden for merchants. “Merchants are really frustrated with all these mobile payments,” Litan said. “The systems are opaque and banks are keeping information close to the vest.”

What’s apparent with Samsung Pay and other mobile payments is that the rate of adoption is not only about new technologies, but also business partnerships. So far, Apple has excelled in creating partnerships with credit card companies and major banks, as well as many large retailers. Apple and its bank, card and retail partners have aired a steady stream of TV ads and other promotions to show the ease of using Apple Pay with NFC for quick in-store payments.

“The path to mobile payments is not only in the technology, but how many partnerships you can form with financial institutions and retailers willing to accept your particular solution,” said analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates. “If Samsung can build an ecosystem that provides for its technology, then it can be a player. Apple, almost by default, will have such an ecosystem. Everyone seems to want to support whatever Apple does, because of its weight in the marketplace. We’ll have to see if Samsung can bring the same weight with its payment technology.”

Various things could happen to help Samsung with Samsung Pay. If, for example, Samsung decides to license the LoopPay magnetic transmission technology to other device makers — even Apple and Google — then Samsung could reap benefits. On the other hand, if Samsung Pay turns out to be highly successful, both Apple Pay and Google Wallet could ultimately be “marginalized,” Sloan said.

While that scenario may seem far-fetched to many, Samsung Pay has opened a lot of eyes.


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06.23
14

Google looks to the day when it can quit building its own servers

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Google is well-known for building its own server hardware to meet the unique needs of its massive compute network, but that won’t always be the case, the head of its infrastructure team said Wednesday.

Practical advice for you to take full advantage of the benefits of APM and keep your IT environment

As cloud deployments get bigger and more widespread, the industry will eventually catch up to Google’s style of computing and the company will no longer need to build its own systems.

That’s according to Urs Hölzle, the executive in charge of Google’s technical infrastructure, in an on-stage interview at the Gigaom Structure conference Wednesday.

Google initially built its own servers just to save money, Hölzle said. It hasn’t been short of money for a long time, but it still designs its own servers today.

That’s because it thinks about data centers more holistically than most other companies, and designs its servers to work in tandem with the power and cooling equipment to minimize energy costs.

“We were doing our own hardware because … we were thinking much more about the data center as a computer, rather than a single box as the computer, and that really pushes you in a different direction,” Hölzle said.

“With the cloud, these things in the next five to 10 years converge again, because ‘normal’ workloads—not just Google-scale workloads—are going to run on the same infrastructure, and therefore can use the same hardware, pretty much,” he said.

The implication for big businesses is that they’ll become more Google-like, so equipment vendors will supply them with products that Google can use as well.

That’s not to say they’ll be running at Google’s scale. To take one example—Google provides many of the services that run on Android smartphones, like Gmail and Hangouts.

Almost every Android device has one or two TCP connections open to Google, meaning there are 1 or 2 billion active connections hitting Google’s servers at any given time, Hölzle said.

That would have been a problem five years ago, he said, but Google has learned a lot in that time about how to use software to scale its infrastructure.

It’s now adding new devices to its network, like satellites and connected thermostats.

“It’s not actually that scary any more, because if you have 15 years behind you and every year you’re growing at 50 percent or 100 percent, by now we’ve learned how to scale, and I think that will work out fine,” Hölzle said.

Maybe one day, “normal” businesses will be that confident as well.


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11.9
13

Google bans Windows Chrome extensions found outside the Chrome Web Store

by admin ·

Google is going to stop allowing non-sanctioned extensions to work on its Chrome for Windows browser. It’s for your safety, you understand.

The sad march towards tribal fiefdoms continued Thursday, as Google announced that it will only allow Chrome for Windows users to download extensions hosted by Google’s own Chrome Web Store starting in January.

Google says the decision to transform Chrome into a gated community stems from security concerns, in an echo of the official reason that Microsoft moved to the Windows Store model to distribute modern UI apps. Google engineering director Erik Kay points the finger at the damage caused by rogue extensions in a blog post detailing the lock-down.

“Bad actors have abused this mechanism, bypassing the prompt to silently install malicious extensions that override browser settings and alter the user experience in undesired ways, such as replacing the New Tab Page without approval. In fact, this is a leading cause of complaints from our Windows users.”

The policy shift will no doubt make it easier for Google to police the sanctity of said extensions. Google’s been on a bit of a security tear recently; last week, the company announced plans to step up Chrome’s malware-busting chops.

But, it’s also worth noting, developers who want to include their Chrome Web Store have to pay a $5 registration fee–and if your Chrome Web Store-hosted app or extension generates income, Google will take a 5 percent cut of the revenue.

The move to a gatekeeper-type model carries other implications: For example, while you can currently find the Adblock Plus extension in the Chrome Web Store, Google scrubbed the app from Android’s Play store earlier this year. Android users can still sideload the Adblock Plus app after jumping through some hoops.

Everyday Chrome users would not have the same ability under the new extension policy, though developers and enterprise Chrome users will still be able to install “unauthorized” extensions.

Crappy par for a crappy course

Sadly, the shift away from the Open Web ideal is nothing new.

Windows 8’s move to the walled-off Windows Store caused anger amongst developers (andA may have spurred the creation of the Linux-based SteamOS in response). Earlier this year, Google caught flak from privacy advocates for shifting away from the open XMPP technology built into Google Talk to the proprietary technology in its new Hangouts messaging service. Android looks less and less open by the day. And this week alone, both Microsoft and Google announced plans to cut off third-party client access to bothA Skype and Google Voice, respectively. (Again, they “pose a threat to your security.”)

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with the words of Google co-founder Larry Page, from this year’s Google I/O keynote.

“And I think that we’ve really invested a lot into the open standards behind all that. And I’ve personally been quite saddened at the industry’s behavior around all these things… I’d like to see more open standards, more people getting behind things, that just work, and more companies involved in those ecosystems.”

Lofty ideals indeed, and noble ones. Just don’t forget to practice what you’re preaching, Google.


 

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08.7
13

Google, Microsoft play catch up to Amazon, add load balancing, auto-scaling to their clouds

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Cloud computing proving to be a piggy-back industry

Google Wednesday rolled out load balancing features to its public cloud service, allowing customers to automatically scale up and down virtual machines to accommodate unexpected spikes in demand.

The rollout comes just a few months after Microsoft improved its Azure cloud service with new auto-scaling features. Both companies are effectively playing catch-up with leading IaaS provider Amazon Web Services, which already offers such features.

Load balancing is a “critical” feature for any highly scalable cloud deployment, Google engineers wrote in announcing the company’s service today. It allows Google Compute Engine (GCE) to automatically and intelligently route traffic across a collection of servers. This replaces a manual process where new virtual machines (VM) would be provisioned by the user. It’s intelligent because the system can automatically check to ensure the VMs are healthy and can accept traffic. The load balancing can be configured either using a command line interface or through APIs.

Earlier this summer Microsoft released new auto-scaling features to its Azure cloud platform. That allowed similar functionality, with the ability to scale compute resources up or down compute resources in its cloud.

Both auto-scaling and load balancing are typically used to handle traffic spikes or large-scale increases or decreases in resources. The difference between the two is that auto-scaling spreads CPU workloads across a predefined cluster of servers, whereas load balancing allows network bandwidth traffic to be distributed across clusters of servers on the fly, according to a forum post on AWS’s website.


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07.27
13

The Google Nexus 7 is dead, long live the Nexus 7

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The Google Nexus 7 is dead, long live the Nexus 7
A big week for Android hardware, plus Google getting bullish on the tablet market, Sony promising a lot of Android 4.3, Play Games, security news and Samsung still talking about some imaginary friend called “Tizen.”

The best way I can think of to describe the tech press’ moderated, polite reaction to the official release of the new Nexus 7 this week is that it reminded me of somebody who’d heard about a surprise party in advance, but didn’t want to ruin things for their friends.

Pretty much every salient detail about the revamped Nexus 7 had leaked well before the official release, though some of it was in the form of rumors, so there wasn’t much that came as a genuine surprise.

Don’t get me wrong – I think the new devices look very nice. Full HD screen? Check. Substantially upgraded hardware? Check. Latest Android version? Check again.

But, to be frank, it’s just not as big a deal as its forerunner.

I got to play with the original Nexus 7 when it came out, and I think it’s fair to say I was pretty impressed – I found it functional, a pleasure to use and tough to beat at $200.

Along with the Kindle Fire HD, the original Nexus 7 helped jump-start the small tablet market, and pushed Android tablets into a more respectable position in terms of overall market share. The new one is an upgrade, for sure, but it seems unlikely to be as groundbreaking as its predecessor. It’s not as focused on offering maximum bang for the buck, and doesn’t cover any particularly new territory.

On the other hand, maybe it won’t get that horrific slowdown problem that older Nexus 7s reportedly suffer from.

* Speaking of market share, Android chief Sundar Pichai said Wednesday that Android tablets now account for half of all such devices sold worldwide, despite past dominance by That Other Tablet.

Still, wonders analyst Benedict Evans, how come That Other Tablet still draws the lion’s share of mobile ad dollars and uses vastly more data? He’s essentially not sure, though he does have a few interesting guesses.

(H/T: BGR)
* Chromecast, though not itself an Android-based device, is making enough headlines that I think it deserves a mention. If you were unaware, it’s essentially an HDMI dongle that you plug into your TV, allowing you to watch Netflix and YouTube (as well as Google Play Videos and Music) on a bigger screen. You can control it with an Android phone, a Chromebook, or even just a Chrome browser window on a laptop. Plus, it costs just $35, including three free months of Netflix service.

It impressed tech pundits enough that Google has already had to come out and publicly declare that its pre-existing Google TV service isn’t dead, and terms like “game-changing” are being used freely.

Although I am a cynical person, who tends to look on new gadgetry with a jaundiced eye, it’s difficult to avoid the opinion that Chromecast is a genuinely impressive achievement, particularly for the price. It could, at a stroke, make your home entertainment experience a lot more seamless than it likely is at the moment.

The only genuinely unpleasant thing about it, as the estimable Larry Magid highlights, is that it represents a still-greater level of ubiquity for Google in day-to-day life; another way of consuming media curated entirely by Google. Regardless of how valuable the resulting usage data will be to Google’s ad business, I’m far from alone in being leery of the Goog’s increasing control over my information. I’ll take my tin-foil hat in XL, please.

* Sony says it’s going to roll out Android 4.3 on a lot of its top-end inventory, including the Xperia Z, Xperia ZR, Xperia ZL, Xperia Tablet Z, Xperia SP and Xperia Z Ultra. (Version 4.3 was leaked in its entirety last week, though it officially launched Wednesday.)

Assuming the company can follow through, it’s heartening to see a major OEM put some emphasis on keeping up with the latest and greatest Android version.

(H/T: Phandroid)
* Google Play Games, the company’s app to “socialize” your Android gaming experience, launched this week, letting players connect with friends and then ruin those friendships by getting overly competitive about Temple Run scores.

I haven’t tried it out yet, but it sounds a lot like an Android version of Steam, the PC gaming platform that includes many similar features. More to the point, it also lets Android compete directly with That Other Phone’s Game Center framework, though TechHive’s Florence Ion says it’s got a long way to go to catch up.

* A really worrying hack that could let malicious actors modify legitimate Android apps without changing their security signatures has cropped up in the wild, according to Symantec.

The so-called “master key” vulnerability was discovered on third-party app stores based in China, which were modified to steal IMEIs, deactivate some mobile security programs, send premium-rate text messages and even remotely control infected devices, the security company says.

You should be safe if you stick to the Play Store, but third-party distributors can be vulnerable to this sort of thing.

(H/T: BBC)
* Despite being the undisputed king of the Android castle, Samsung continues to forge ahead on the open-source Tizen mobile operating system, announcing a developer conference on Tuesday scheduled for late October.

A report from Computerworld’s Matt Hamblen provides several viewpoints on why Samsung would be so eager to jump off the horse that it has ridden to smartphone pre-eminence, but they all mostly boil down to wanting greater control over the software part of the stack. Good luck with that, I guess.


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04.8
13

Google-led group warns of ‘patent privateers

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BlackBerry, Red Hat, Google and EarthLink say businesses use patent trolls as mercenaries to harass the competition

Patent trolls are increasingly becoming a weapon some companies can use to harm or harass their competitors, according to public comments jointly submitted today to the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department by lawyers for Google, Red Hat, BlackBerry and EarthLink.

The comment detail what the companies say is a rising tide of so-called “patent privateering” and called for a large-scale government probe of the matter. The term refers to the practice of selling patents to a patent-assertion entity (or patent troll), which enables the troll to turn around and sue a competitor without the original company having to expose itself to negative publicity or countersuits.

Google senior competition counsel Matthew Bye explained why the process works in an official blog post.

“Trolls use the patents they receive to sue with impunity – since they don’t make anything, they can’t be countersued. The transferring company hides behind the troll to shield itself from litigation, and sometimes even arranges to get a cut of the money extracted by troll lawsuits and licenses,” he wrote.

What’s more, according to the companies, patent privateering can be used to circumvent fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing agreements – exposing businesses that made good-faith decisions to create products based on a given technology to infringement suits by trolls.

Google and its co-signers urged an FTC investigation into the practice, saying that the extent of patent privateering and its effects is difficult to quantify without additional information.

“The secrecy in which PAEs cloak their activities exacerbates all of these concerns and leaves the public without information needed to access the likely competitive effects of patent outsourcing practices,” the companies said.

Google recently announced an Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge, saying that it will agree never to sue over the use of some designated patents unless attacked first. The first 10 patents in the program all relate to MapReduce, a big data processing model.


 

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03.22
13

Industry coalition objects to Google’s domain names applications

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FairSearch.org, which is backed by Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle, said Google could get a competitive advantage from generic industry terms

An industry coalition with backing from Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle has objected to Google’s application for certain top-level domain strings.

FairSearch.org said it has filed objections with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) over Google’s applications for generic top-level domain (gTLD) strings including “.search,” “.fly” and “.map.”

By accepting Google’s application, ICANN will enable the search giant to gain an unfair competitive advantage against other members of the community “through the improper grant of a perpetual monopoly of generic industry terms to a single company.”

Google, which controls over 79 percent of search queries in the U.S. and over 90 percent market share in Europe, doesn’t need more help against its competitors by giving it control over who gets access to new domain names, FairSearch said on Tuesday.

The industry coalition lobbies policy makers following what it describes as “growing evidence that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition.”

ICANN’s policy to open generic domain names to private parties has already attracted criticism from other fronts.

Publishing industry groups and bookseller Barnes & Noble have, for example, objected to Amazon.com’s application for top-level domain strings, including for “.book” and “.read.”

In its application for the “.book” gTLD, Amazon wrote that “.BOOK will be a single entity registry, with all domains registered to Amazon for use in pursuit of Amazon’s business goals.” There will be no resellers and market in “.book” domains, and Amazon will strictly control the use of “.book” domains, it added.

Placing generic domains in private hands is anticompetitive, and will allow already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power, Scott Turow, president of Authors Guild in New York, wrote in a letter to ICANN.

Google has applied for a large number of gTLDs including some related to its existing brands.

Specific new strings do not have inherent value from which applicants can derive competitive advantage, as Internet users tend to use the topAlevel domain names they are already comfortable with, particularly “.com,” Google wrote in a letter to ICANN earlier this month. A new gTLD operator will need to make significant investments to raise awareness of the TLD, and persuade users to make use of the new domains, it added.

Google has, however, said in the letter that it has identified four of its current single registrant applications that it will revise: “.app,” “.blog,” “.cloud” and “.search,” as these have been identified by governments and others in the community as being potentially valuable and useful to the entire industry.

“We also believe that for each of these terms we can create a strong set of user experiences and expectations without restricting the string to use with Google products,” it added, leading to speculation that the company may agree to open up these four domains to non-Google products.

“It’s possible that Google could access the data that flows over any other website who asks to register under a gTLD owned by Google, giving it even greater advantage over all other companies on the Internet,” FairSearch said. Google did not immediately comment on FairSearch’s objections before ICANN.

 


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