new web technologies
- Google Cites First Amendment In Challenge To FISA Secrecy Order
- Google's Next Nexus Is Nowhere In Sight
- Pinterest Developers, After Years Of Waiting, Can Take Hope
- Microsoft's Most Wanted: A Convicted Child Molester Worked At Yammer
- Chromebook Sales Expanding Despite Tablet-Leaning Market
Google Cites First Amendment In Challenge To FISA Secrecy Order
Google, eager to salvage its security-related reputation in the wake of disclosures about the NSA's PRISM surveillance program, has asked a secretive intelligence court to let it disclose more details regarding government requests for information about its users, reports the Washington Post.
In a legal filing Tuesday, Google cited a First Amendment right to speak about the information it must legally provide to the government. The company is seeking to have the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court lift a gag order that prevents companies from discussing or describing surveillance orders issued by that court, even in general terms.
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 14:44:00 -0700
Author: ReadWrite Editors :: Category: now
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Google's Next Nexus Is Nowhere In Sight
If you are waiting to get your hands on the latest and greatest of Google’s Nexus Android smartphones and tablets, the last month or so has been both exciting and disappointing.
Google announces new Nexus smartphones and tablets when it ships new versions of Android. With every sugary dessert iteration, avid Android fans get flagship devices running unadulterated Android (free of the skins and bloatware from manufacturers and carriers) to satiate their geeky desires.
The only problem? Google hasn’t announced a new version of Android yet. And there is no firm timetable for when it will.
Google had set a pattern of announcing the newest Android versions at its I/O developer conference over the last couple of years. Android developers got lots of goodies from Google this year at I/O (Android Studio and a bevy of monetization tools) but a shiny new version of Android was not among the announcements.
To make up for the missing Android refresh (and the related lack of new Nexus devices), Google has made deals to bring the stock Android user interface to the most popular smartphones currently on the market.
Google announced the availability of a “Google Edition” Samsung Galaxy S4 running the Nexus user interface during the I/O keynote. The well-received HTC One will also come out with a Google Edition Nexus version. Gadget manufacturer LG shipped a white version of the Nexus 4. Both the Google Edition Galaxy S4 and HTC One with the Nexus user interface will be available on the Google Play store on June 26th and will be unlocked and ready to use on T-Mobile or AT&T in the United States. The price will be fairly steep though, with the HTC One selling for $599 and the S4 for $650. In comparison, the Nexus 4 from LG was only $299 when it was released in November 2012.
“When It’s Ready”
I was sitting in a room with a Google executive on the Android team shortly after the I/O keynote address. Ostensibly, we were taking about apps. Lots and lots of apps. Yet I couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room.
“So,” I asked, trying to sound casual, “when is the next version of Android coming out?”
The exec smiled. This question was not unexpected. Google did not announce a new version of Android during I/O. Not a new version of Android Jelly Bean or the rumored Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie. Nothing.
“When it’s ready,” she said.
That is a very Apple-like response from Google and not one that the company has employed previously with Android. Google historically has released new versions of Android at a breakneck pace as it worked to create feature parity with iOS and other mobile platforms.
That parity was largely achieved with the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and arguably surpassed since with the two updates of version 4.1 and 4.2 Jelly Bean. Google now has the ability to be patient with the next release of Android as opposed to iterating something minor on the top of what has become a stable, feature-rich platform.
The longest that Google has gone without announcing a major new named version of Android has been seven months (between version 2.1 Éclair and 2.2 Froyo and again between Froyo and 2.3 Gingerbread). Google has already gone seven months between its last platform update (with Jelly Bean 4.2) and almost a full year between named versions with Jelly Bean 4.1 released in July 2012.
By the time Google comes out with its next major Android update, it will be the longest the platform has ever gone without a new named version. We don’t know when the next version is coming, but a fair presumption is that Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie will drop sometime this fall, just in time for the holiday device buying season.
Google's Challenge: Keeping Device Makers & Android Users Happy
When it comes to Google’s Android flagship Nexus devices, the search giant has a massive balancing act to perform. On one hand, it needs to stroke the egos of its primary manufacturing partners like Samsung, HTC and LG. On the other hand, it has a legion of loyal Android fans that just want their new Nexus devices to be the best of the best, run un-skinned and unadulterated Android and be reasonably inexpensive.
The “Google Edition” versions of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One are a compromise from Google between these two factions. Users get the chance to get some of the best devices currently on the market running the stock Android user interface. Manufacturers get the privilege of having “Nexus” editions while also being able to charge full price for their top devices. Google wins because it was able to get ostensible Nexus devices to market without yet having to come out with a new version of Android.
How will this play out in the future? LG made the last Nexus smartphone but has said that it will not be making the next one. Samsung had the previous two Nexus smartphones before that (as well as the Nexus 10 tablet that shipped last November) and HTC made the first Nexus device. Asus has made the Nexus 7 tablets thus far. Google owns Motorola and has said that it treats the company like any of its other Android manufacturing partners, which would put Motorola in the running for a Nexus device in the future.
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 09:39:00 -0700
Author: Dan Rowinski :: Category: Android
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Pinterest Developers, After Years Of Waiting, Can Take Hope
The developer community has a message for Pinterest: what’s taking so long?
Ever since March 2012, the image-sharing network has promised developers an API. And it's in demand - according to ProgrammableWeb, the Pinterest API profile is the most frequently viewed page on the site, revealing the community’s anticipation for the feature.
Whatever the reason, the lack of API access from Pinterest is not sitting well with the developer community.
Promises But Little Progress
An API, or application programming interface, is a group of requirements that permit one device to talk to another. They’re essential for developers who want to build applications on top of an existing site’s functionalities.
Most social networks have wised up to how vital APIs can be for innovative features. After Twitter launched in March 2006, it only took the company six months to release a public API. Facebook’s came less than a year later, in May 2007.
As it approaches its fourth anniversary, Pinterest is no longer the newest social network on the block, and still no API. Any particular reason?
A Pinterest spokesperson told ReadWrite the company is being “thoughtful” about the release. That’s no less vague than the comment a spokesperson gave me when I visited Pinterest HQ last September, that the API was “in the works.”
That’s not to say, however, that there hasn’t been any progress at all. In May, Pinterest launched a Developer Site as a resource for site owners and developers who are building with existing Pinterest tools, like the Pin It button and rich pins. The week of the launch the site even had a pinboard for API documentation, a pinboard that now leads to a 404.
There’s also a Google form developers can fill out to become the first to know about updates to the Pinterest API. However, since signing up on this form after the first announcement in March 2012, I haven’t heard a peep.
Why We Need It Now
Without a public API, there’s only one way to create applications that work on top of Pinterest - data scraping, the automated gathering of data through a site's interface. This is exactly what existing Pinterest applications are doing now.
Repinly, a Pinterest statistics and ranking site, is one example. According to founder Rami Madi, the lack of an API has forced him to get creative.
“Since we don't use an API, we crawl Pinterest and we index the information of top pinners, popular boards and trending pins,” Madi said in an email.
But without an API, Madi’s data is only accurate up to a point. While an API would allow Repinly to communicate with Pinterest in real time; data scraping only updates his resources hourly. The top pins on Repinly will not be up-to-the-minute. And no matter how much Madi perfects the tool, there’s no way to really improve without an API. That’s to say nothing of how labor-intensive and time-consuming data scraping makes Madi’s job.
Centered around window shopping, Pinterest is an exceptionally lucrative social network and there’s no shortage of developers who want to build applications for it. But even the best developers will have accuracy problems until the API is released.
How Much Longer?
One of Pinterest’s newest hires may be a sign that the API could finally be on the way. In June, the company hired John Yi to head “Marketing Developer Partnerships.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, Yi spent the last four years at Facebook, where he appears to have been heavily involved in API integration. If that’s the case, it could be that Pinterest has hired him to do the same thing.
Once again, Pinterest has got developers excited about its API. Hopefully they won’t be let down this time.
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 09:10:00 -0700
Author: Lauren Orsini :: Category: Pinterest
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Microsoft's Most Wanted: A Convicted Child Molester Worked At Yammer
A few years ago, a fast-growing startup, adding staff at a breakneck pace, hired a facilities manager as a contractor without asking too many questions.
That startup was Yammer, now part of Microsoft. And that contractor - Marcus Tillman - is now behind bars, facing the 40-year sentence he dodged in Georgia years ago.
Federal investigators, acting on a tip from authorities in Georgia, went to Yammer's office in San Francisco last week seeking information about Tillman, known to his colleagues as "Stephen Warner."
"They were more than cooperative once we told them what was going on," Deputy Joe Palmer told ReadWrite.
Within days, and with help from the information Yammer provided, Palmer and his colleagues arrested Tillman at the Cup-A-Joe Coffee House in San Francisco Thursday night. Tillman was taken into custody, awaiting extradition to Georgia.
“We are as shocked and saddened as anyone to learn of these developments," a Microsoft spokesperson told us. "While we do not want to comment on a criminal matter, we can confirm that at no point was Tillman a Yammer or Microsoft employee. Tillman was a contractor assigned to facilities-related work. We cooperated with authorities in his capture and are relieved that he has been brought to justice.”
"America's Most Wanted"
In February 2009, facing trial on two charges of child molestation, Tillman cut off his ankle monitor and fled. He was convicted in absentia and sentenced. Later that year, he used a bank account opened in Atlanta to purchase a ticket at a California bus depot, drawing attention from authorities in that state. But after that, the trail appeared to have gone cold.
Tillman made several appearances on "America's Most Wanted." But until last week, he lived relatively openly in San Francisco, albeit under his assumed name. Early employees remember him working at Yammer as long ago as 2010 or 2011. His duties included stocking the refrigerator, cleaning common areas, and fixing broken equipment.
He was a constant presence at Yammer's office - including occasions when parents brought their children to work.
Surrounded by some of the industry's brightest software engineers, Tillman appears to have excelled instead at the dark arts of social engineering, or manipulating people to his own ends.
It's not clear how Yammer hired or paid Tillman. Our sources disagree on whether he worked through an agency or as an independent contractor: It appears that his status varied over the years, and that Tillman may have used these changes in payment arrangements to deflect suspicions.
Surrounded by some of the industry's brightest software engineers, Tillman appears to have excelled instead at the dark arts of social engineering.
After Microsoft bought Yammer, a maker of tools for collaboration and information sharing with businesses, for $1.2 billion in the summer of 2012, Tillman's employment arrangements became a subject of talk at the Yammer office. Microsoft does not work with independent contractors; instead, it employs them through agencies.
At the time, Yammer employees recalled discussing a widely held belief in the office that their facilities manager did not have a Social Security number. One explanation that circulated around the office: Warner's religious beliefs forbade him from getting a government-issued identification number.
But any suspicions came up at a time when Yammer was preparing hundreds of employees for a new parent company and a simultaneous move into a new office in San Francisco's Mid-Market district. Contractor or not, Tillman had worked as "Warner" for years at that point.
One thing is clear: Had Yammer hired him as a regular employee, its practice of conducting criminal background checks - an unusual scruple for a startup of its size - would almost certainly have caught Tillman's subterfuge.
Instead, he was able to pull an elaborate deception on the place where he worked for years, exploiting loopholes and perhaps the sympathies of the people whose desks he repaired and whose cafeteria he cleaned.
We asked Microsoft for the name of the agency or agencies through which it and Yammer had contracted with Warner over the years. The company declined to name them.
The software giant has slowly been integrating Yammer's operations. The companies will combine their sales teams in July. In October, human resources and finance operations will shift over to Microsoft's central groups.
Mugshot courtesy US Marshals; photo of Yammer office by Robert Scoble
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 08:05:00 -0700
Author: Owen Thomas :: Category: crime
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Chromebook Sales Expanding Despite Tablet-Leaning Market
Finding a Chromebook from Google has never been particularly hard to do, since they've been available at Best Buy and Amazon for quite a while. But now Acer's $199 model Chromebooks have gotten even more prolific, now available on the shelves of 2,800 U.S. Wal-Mart stores.
The expansion of Chromebook inventories doesn't stop there, according to Google's blog post yesterday. Starting this weekend, Staples will have Chromebooks from Acer, HP and Samsung in every one of its 1,500-plus U.S. stores.
Expansion is coming to other markets as well, wrote David Shapiro, Director of Chromebook Marketing:
In addition to Dixons in the UK, now 116 Tesco stores are selling Chromebooks, as well as all Media Markt and Saturn stores in the Netherlands, FNAC stores in France and Elgiganten stores in Sweden. In Australia, all JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman stores will be carrying Chromebooks for their customers as well.
See also HP TouchPad is Clever, Not a Killer
While sales numbers of Chromebooks have not been made available, the numbers must be at least decent enough for Wal-Mart, Staples and the rest of these retail outlets to be interested in selling them. Clearly, a repeat of the HP TouchPad debacle is not happening here.
Is the Chromebook about to succeed in a market that seems to lean hard on tablets? Thinking about getting one yourself? Let us know.
Image courtesy of Google.
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 06:16:30 -0700
Author: ReadWrite Editors :: Category: now
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